The tranquil and appealing Shimogamo Shrine has the distinction of being one of the most significant Shinto temples in the city of Kyoto. Constructed in the 6th century the shrine predates its sister temple, the Kamigamo Shrine by about a century. Both of these temples are devoted to the deity of thunder, and also functions as the family temple of the Kamo, an important clan who inhabited the locality before Kyoto was chosen as Japan’s capital. The twin shrines have the important function of safeguarding Kyoto from malign influences.
Shimogamo is located in an appealing verdant setting known as the Forest of Truth, or Tadasu no Mori. The trees here, of which many are 600 years in age, are thought to be of sacred significance by the local priests. In summer time, numerous local citizens converge on the site to relax in the cool environment and enjoy the calm spirituality discernible at the locale.
An imposing torii style gate guards the entranceway to the principal shrine at Shimogamo, which is revered for its significance in assuring a plentiful harvest of rice year by year. Additionally the compound features 25 other sanctuaries of smaller size, with picturesque bridges spanning the tranquil streams at the site.
Kyoto functioned as the capital city of Imperial Japan for a period of 1,000 years and over this extended period Shimogamo, along with its sister shrine, was supported by the Emperor’s court, which believed in the benign powers of the temple. Court messengers were dispatched to the shrine to keep the presiding deities informed on the latest happenings at the court.
On May 15th the Hollyhock Festival, known as Aoi Matsuri, is conducted at the twin shrines. Participants attired in Imperial style costumes travel in a large procession from the Imperial Palace in Kyoto to the two temples in order to venerate the resident deities. The festival also includes archery contests and horse racing events. Visitors to the area would do well to visit these exotic Japanese temples.
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