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Kamigamo shrine in Kyoto, Aoi matsuri, and its history 上賀茂神社 京都 英語

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The short history of Kamigamo shrine

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“Kamigamo shrine” is a de facto name of “Kamo wake ikazuchi shrine”. It enshrines “Kamo-wake ikazuchi no kami”, the deity of vigorous thunder.

“Kamo” means the Kamo clan which inhabited around the northern part of ancient Kyoto.

“Ikazuchi” has the same meaning as “Kaminari”. We can devide the word into two words. “kami” and “nari”. “Kami” means deity and “nari” means “sound”. The origin of the word “kaminari” is “Sound made by deity”. So, we adored thunder with awe. in the ancient times.

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The official history of Kamigamo shrine indicates the deity descended on the mt. Koyama.

On the other hand, Yamashiro no kuni Fudoki (the report of ancient Kyoto province),indicates that: Tamayoribime found an arrow and brought back it to home. She put it on her bedroom and it made her pregnant.

In 709 A.C., the capital moved to Kyoto from Nara. After the transfer of the capital, Kamigamo shrine was enlisted in “Nijyu-nisya (22 shrines) ” which protects the capital. When our country was in a critical condition, like huge expansion of epidemic,  Nijyu-nisya shrines received dedication of the Imperial court. Niju-nisya desereved this highest honor.

Around the late 15th century, the dedication ceased because the largest civil war in the Medieval ages in Japan took place and the Imperial court was on decline politically and financially.

Sometimes the Imperial court tried to resume the dedication only to fail.

葵祭2016

In the 19th century, Kamogamo shrine was enlisted as one of three “Chokusai-sya”. Chokusai-sya is a shrine which deserves a visit of a messenger of the emperor. Kamigamo shrine still is in Chokusai-sya. At Aoi matsuri festival, the emperor send his messenger.

Today, Kamigamo shrine has 2 National Treasures of Japan and is listed as the world Heritage site.

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The crest of Kamogamo shrine

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The crest of Kamigamo shrine is “Aoi (the leaves in the picture. The crests are embroidered in the red part of the wooden curtain behind the leaves. )”.  The word is devided into two words and  the words transformed “Ahu” and “Hi” each other in the old Japanese language. These words mean “We see Deity”.

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Yatagarasu  八咫烏

上賀茂神社の八咫烏おみくじ

We often see a three-legged crow in Kamigamo shrine. The crow is called “Yatagarasu”. It guided the emperor Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan, through his Odyssey. It is believed that Yatagarasu is Kamo wake taketsunumi no mikoto, the founder of the Kamo clan.

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He is enshrined in Kuga shrine, the sub-shrine of Kamigamo shrine.

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What to see in Kamigamo shrine? みどころ

Main building (National treasure) 本殿

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The main hall of Kamigamo  shrine is listed as National treasures of Japan because it has typical “Nagare-zukuri” construction. Take a look at the picture above. The front side of the roof of the shrine is longer than the back side of it. That is a “Nagare-zukuri”. (The shrine in the photo is not a main building of Kamigamo shrine.)

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Though the main hall is National treasure, we can’t see it usually. Click the picture of Nakamon gate above.  You can see a banner kanjis and 42 are written. Under the banner, there is a gate and we can’t go beyond the gate except special occasion.

白馬奏覧神事

The picture and the video above tell you what is like inside of the Nakamon gate. The picture was taken in a ritual called “Hakuba sohran shinji”. In the ritual, we let the Deity see a horse. So, he stands in front of the main building. He sees ahead a small corridor, a place filled with white pebbles, and the main building. In the video, a priestess is on the corridor and let him eat soy beans.  If the emperor pays a visit to the shrine, he prays on the pebbles. He is the only person to be there.

In special occasion, we can be the same place where the horse stands in the picture.

上賀茂神社の狛犬(コマさん)上賀茂神社の狛犬(コマじろう)

The main hall has a corridor around it and there is a pair of Komainu. (We cannot take picture of the main hall.) Kamainu is a guardian of shrine and temple.

The peculiar thing in Kamigamo shrine is that it has two-main halls. “Honden (main hall)” and “Gonden (sub-hall)”. Gonden is a substitute for Honden in case of emergency in which we cannot use Honden and “Shikinen-sengu”.

Shikinen-sengu is a reconstruction of a main hall of the Shinto shrine. Around 10 of 80,000 shrines carry it on. Kamigamo shrine practices it every 20 years. Originally, Shikinen sengu needs reconstruction of the building but that of Kamigamo shrine exercise only the reconstruction of the roof because we cannot make large modification of properties of Natonal treasure in terms of law. We have a good example. As I indicated in the article of Kinkakuji temple, the golden pavilion was  caught by fire to burnt out. When it happened, Kinkakuji was listed as National treasure. The government crossed Kinkakuji off the list of National Treasure for the purpose of reconstruction.

 

Hosodono 細殿

上賀茂神社の立砂

When the emperor or “Saioh”, the priestess on behalf of the emperor paid a visit to Kamigamo shrine, they entered Hosodono right away. Today, wedding ceremony is held there.

Tate-zuna 立て砂

上賀茂神社の立て砂

In front of Hosodono, there are 2 sand mountains. They stands for “Koyoma” the Deity of Kamigamo shrine descended to. This is the origin of “Mori-shio”. Mori-shio is a small mountain of salt believed to take anything evil away.

Romon (National Treasure) 楼門

上賀茂神社楼門

Kataoka-sya a.k.a. Kayayama miko jinjya

片岡社片岡社の絵馬

At Kataoka-sya Tamayoribime is enshrined. It is the  most imoportant sub-shrine in Kamigamo shrine because Tamayoribime is a mother the Deity of Kamigamo shrine.

白馬奏覧神事2018

The horse bows to Kataoka-sya before go to the main hall.

片岡社の美鈴神楽鈴

The construntion of the bell of Kataoka-sya is based on a bell Shinto priestess uses.

Murasaki Shikibu, the author of The Tale of Genjivisited there frequently.

Kataoka-basi and Tama-basi 片岡橋と玉橋

Kataoka-basi 片岡橋

上賀茂神社片岡橋上賀茂神社片岡橋

A roofed-bridge in front of Kataoka-sya.

Tama-basi 玉橋

上賀茂神社玉橋上賀茂神社玉橋

Tama-basi is closed usually. In some occasion, priest can cross the bridge.

 

Hashidono a.k.a. Maidono (National Treasure) 橋殿/舞殿

上賀茂神社橋殿上賀茂神社橋殿

 

We put “Hitogata” on the stream from Hashidono on “Nagoshi no harae” ritual. In the ritual, Hitogata brings anything evil away.

Gakunoya (National Treasure) 楽屋

上賀茂神社楽屋葵祭2016

When the Shinto and the Buddhism was fused, Gakunoya was a building for Buddhist monks.

Tsuchinoya (National Treasure) 土屋

上賀茂神社土屋葵祭2016

In Tsuchinoya, priests purify themselves in a stream goes along it or hold ritual.

Ganjyo 岩上

岩上

In Kamo-sai (the official name of Aoi matsuri festival), Chokushi, the messenger of the emperor reads out “Goseimon (The message of the emperor) and a priest answers it. It is so sacred place that I cannot take picture. (Sorry, as common Japanese person, I think it is rude to take a picture of sacred place.)

葵祭2016内蔵使

In the parade of Aoi matsuri, the man in black garment plays a role of the  messenger of the emperor and the man in red also plays a role of a carrier of the messege of the emperor.

Syo kei en 渉渓園

上賀茂神社渉渓園

Syo kei en is a garden made for “Kyokusui-en”.

賀茂曲水宴2017

At the 2nd Sunday of April, “Kamo kyokusui no en” was held and we can see Saiho-dai of the last year.

賀茂曲水宴2017賀茂曲水宴2017

There is a stream in Syo kei en. Composers on “Waka”, Japanese tradional poem sit along the stream. On the stream, a wooden bird brings a dish of Sake on its back.

They compose poem before the bird shows itself up in front of them.

I said “compose” poem called Waka and it may sounds strange. If you think so, see the video above. You can see what I mean. Waka sounds like music.

Negai ishi 願い石

願い石上賀茂神社渉渓園

There is a rock in the Sho kei en. In the Sho kei en, there used to be a Jingiji-temple and a small pond. The rock was found at the bottom of the pond. It stands for Yin-yang.

Mutsumi no ki 睦の木

睦の木

These three trees has only one root. It stands for a family.

Kamo yamaguchi shrine 賀茂山口神社

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We pray there after touching the Negai ishi.

Shinme-sya 神馬舎

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In the days of old, people dedicated a horse called “Shinme” to shrine. These days, we seldom see Shinme horse at shrine. Kamigamo shrine keeps a Shinme named “Kohyama-go” (His real name is Médaillon). We meet him at week-ends or on special occasion.

神馬おみくじ

We can have “Shinme” Omikuji-fortune telling.

Feed him with carrot, shall we?

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