The Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社 Yasaka-Jinja) is commonly known as the Gion Shrine for organizing the Gion festival every year. The shrine has a history of over 1350 years and is perhaps the most famous shrine in all of Japan.
Intro to Yasaka
Founded in 656, Yasaka-Jinja became well known for organizing the Gion matsuri, or simply Gion festival. The first time the festival was held was in 869 and has since become one of the most renowned festivals across Japan. The shrine is also the place to be with during New Year when millions of people come for their hatsumode, or first shrine visit of the year.
Located in Gion and closely to the historic Higashiyama district, Yasaka Shrine is an easy visit to include when exploring the Eastern side of Kyoto. Think of stops like Kyomizu-dera temple, the Philosopher path and Ginkakuji.
What to do at Yasaka Shrine
Vermilion Entrance Gate
The gate to Yasaka Shrine is a famous landmark and a popular spot for taking photo’s. Statues of Zuishin warriors are enshrined on both sides of the gate to guard the shrine against evil doers. The gate is located to the west side of the shrine itself.
Visit the Main Hall
The main all, or honden, is dedicated to 2 local Gods and their children. Called, Susano’o no Mikoto, god of sea and storms and Kushiinada no Mikoto, the goddess wife. Visitors can ring the temple bells, and make a small offering to ask for their favour.
Get a taste of the Gion Matsuri
The yearly festival starts on July 17 and lasts for a full week. Many ceremonies held during the festival but the most famous feature is the parade. To find what the festival is like, read: Experiencing the Gion Matsuri Festival in Kyoto.
A small sub-shrine of Yasaka, this shrine is a place people visit to become more beautiful, or at least pray to become more beautiful. It is not strange for a geiko or maiko to visit here. Give it a try yourself, who knows what might happen.
Admission and opening hours
The grounds of the Shrine are part of Maruyama park, which is open 24 hours. The inner shrine is open daily between 9:00 and 17:00.
Admission is free.
How to get to Yasaka Shrine
Located in Maruyama park, there are plenty of public transportation options to access Yasaka Shrine. The easiest way to do so from Kyoto station is to use one of the bus lines stopping at Gion. This includes bus lines 5, 12, 46, 100, 201, 202, 203, 206. A one way ticket costs 230yen.
Alternatively, the closest metro station is called Higashiyama on the Kyoto Subway Tozai line. The shrine is about 5-10 minutes on foot from the station.
Tips for visiting
- As with almost any attraction in Kyoto, come early to take the best pictures. It can be busy with other visitors during the day.
- That said, come after dark too! Yasaka Shrine has hundreds of lanterns that are often lit-up for a beautiful display.
- Do not confuse Yasaka Shrine, with Yasaka Pagoda. This landmark is about 10 minutes on foot from the Shrine and a different temple entirely.