Heian Shrine – Kyoto’s Colorful Memorial Shrine
The ultimate anniversary present for Kyoto - Heian Shrine stands proud and vibrant in the midst of its older predecessors in Higashiyama. Enjoy a modern piece of history, built with all the care for detail it deserves.
Ranked by the Association of Shinto Shrines as one of the top institutions in the country (Beppyou Jinja rank), Heian Jingu is located in the Higashiyama region of Kyoto. Famous for its many temples and shrines, including what is called the Philosopher’s Walk – a cherry tree lined path connecting a number of temples – Higashiyama is a joy unto itself.
Heian Jingu is listed by the Japanese government as an Important Cultural Heritage Site due to its role as a Kyoto ‘anniversary’ shrine. Heian Jingu takes its name from Kyoto’s former name, Heian-kyo, from when the city was Japan’s capital.
Heian Shrine Overview
For Kyoto’s 1100th anniversary in 1895, a special present was to be given to the city and its inhabitants: a partial reproduction of the Heian Palace. The replica was to be the centrepiece of an industrial expo that would be held in the city in the same year, but poor planning meant that not enough land was available to house the mammoth structure, forcing the planners to create a scaled down version instead.
Though not what was originally envisioned, the slightly smaller scale Heian Palace was popular enough to allow it to be kept after the exposition had ended and ultimately designated as a memorial shrine to the 50th emperor of Japan, Emperor Kanmu.
Kyoto, still reeling from its demotion as capital, was enlivened by the construction. The vibrant colors reminded people of the glamor and high culture of ages past and it helped instill a sense of identity and belonging into the citizens of Kyoto. Materially, the shrine acted as a catalyst for a revival in interest towards the old city, bringing in much investment in education and culture from enthusiastic donors and the government. The shrine suffered extensive damage in a fire in 1976 and had to be rebuilt using money collected through donations. The speed with which this was achieved (the shrine was rebuilt just three years later) again demonstrated the shrine’s importance to the city as a whole.
Heian Jingu’s red entrance gate, the torii that symbolizes the entryway into the realm of the kami (the Japanese gods of the Shinto faith), is one of the largest in all of Japan and was reproduced in the traditional style of the original Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Heian Jingu’s sprawling gardens are another of its many highlights. Cultivated with great care over a period of two decades, they are some of Kyoto’s best examples of traditional landscaping. Ponds, fed by the Lake Biwa Canal, cover large parts of the garden and create a wide network of waterways, acting as the ideal incubator for an array of rare animal and plant life. Water lilies cover the ponds, often concealing the great variety of fish and turtles that slumber beneath the water’s surface.
Particularly popular times to visit the shrine are the koyo (autumn leaf) and sakura (cherry blossom) seasons, when Heian Jingu is lit up in a thousand colors in a real treat for the eyes.
Mon – Sun
06.00am – 05.30pm (times subject to seasonal changes)*
Free of charge
Sakyo, Kyoto, Japan
No drones allowed
*Due to multiple changes of opening hours within the course of a year, please make sure to check the site for exact information on access times to the shrine.
To access the temple grounds you have two choices on two different lines of the Kyoto railway system. For one, Jingu-Marutamachi Station on the Keihan Oto Line is a short 15 minute walk away from the entrance gates. The line connects north and south right through the middle of Kyoto and is a very convenient connection from many places in Kyoto.
Your second option is riding the Tozai Line, shown in the diagram above, to Higashiyama Station and walking from there. The distance is equidistant with the first option. The Tozai Line is convenient because it connects to the Karasuma Line and is therefore a quick and easy way to get around central Kyoto (including JR Kyoto Station).