Kamigamo Shrine (Aoi Matsuri,location,history)

Kamigamo Shrine, Aoi Matsuri

The information about Kamigamo Shrine is introduced here. Kamigamo Shrine was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in 1994 as a “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)”. Kamigamo Shrine, along with Shimogamo Shrine, hosts Aoi Matsuri Festival (Aoi Festival) every year in May. Aoi Matsuri Festival is one of the three major imperial festivals along with Kasuga-sai Festival of Kasuga Taisha Shrine (Nara City) and Iwashimizu-sai Festival of Ishimizu Hachimangu Shrine (Yawata City). Incidentally, Aoi Matsuri Festival is said to have begun during the reign of the 29th Emperor Kinmei (539-571) and has a history of nearly 1,500 years.

【Kamigamo Shrine Location Map & Directions】

Address: 339 Motoyama, Kamigamo, Kita-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Access (How to get there): Kamigmojinja-mae bus stop (short walk), Subway Kitayama Station (about 15 minutes on foot)

【Opening Hours & Closed (confirmation required)】

Opening Hours: 5:30-17:00
Closed: open year round

【Entrance Fees & Tickets (confirmation required)】

Free (Honden Special Admission : 500 yen)

【Kamigamo Shrine History】

Kamigamo Shrine (Kamigamo Jinja, 上賀茂神社) is officially called Kamo Wakeikaduchi Shrine (Kamo Wakeikaduchi Jinja, 賀茂別雷神社). Kamigamo Shrine is said to have its origins in ancient times, when the enshrined deity, Kamo Wakeikaduchi-no-Mikoto (Kamo Wakeikaduchi-no-Okami), descended to Koyama, located north-northwest of the present shrine building. It is said that Kamo Jingu Shrine was built in 677, and Kamigamo Shrine was founded before that time. Kamigamo Shrine, along with Shimogamo Shrine (Shimogamo Jinja, 下鴨神社), enshrines the clan deity of Kamo, and together they were called Kamo Shrine. It is said that Aoi Matsuri Festival (Aoi Festival) began at Kamigamo Shrine during the reign of the 29th Emperor Kinmei (539-571). According to “Honcho-Gatsuryou” and “Nenchu-Gyojisho”, Aoi Matsuri Festival was held in April 544. In 698, the imperial history “Shoku-Nihon-gi (compiled in the early Heian period)” states that an order was given to guard Aoi Festival as many spectators gathered there. In 784, the capital was moved to Nagaoka-kyo, and Kamigamo Shrine was said to have been given the rank of jyunii (hierarchy of gods) along with Shimogamo Shrine. In 794, the capital was moved to Heian-kyo, and Kamigamo Shrine became the protective deity of the Imperial Castle, and it is said that the 50th Emperor Kanmu visited there. Kamigamo Shrine became the first shrine in Yamashiro Province. In 807, Kamigamo Shrine was elevated to the rank of Shoichi, the highest divine rank, and Aoi Matsuri Festival became an imperial festival. In 810, the Kamo-Saiin was established, and Uchiko Naishinno, the daughter of the 52nd Emperor Saga, served as the first Saio. The Saio continued for 35 generations and about 400 years, and in 1212, Reishi Naishinno, the daughter of the 82nd Emperor Go-Toba, became the last Saio. In 820, Jinguji Temple was built at Kamigamo Shrine by order of the 52nd Emperor Saga. Jinguji Temple was abolished by the separation of Buddhism and Shintoism and the Haibutsu Kishaku. In 927, the Engishiki-Jinmeicho records the shrine and Kamigamo Shrine is listed as the Myojin Taisha. In 1036, the 68th Emperor Go-Ichijo issued an edict to begin the Shikinen-Sengu every 21 years, and in 1037, the shrine buildings were rebuilt. In 1093, the 73rd Emperor Horikawa moved the imperial event of the Butokuden to Kamigamo Shrine to pray for the peace and the good harvest, and it became the origin of Kamo-Kurabeuma (horse race) of Aoi Matsuri Festival. In 1182, Kamo Shigeyasu held a kyokusui-no-en. In 1183, Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate, granted the shoen. In 1334, the 96th Emperor Go-Daigo visited Kamigamo Shrine. However, the emperor’s visit was interrupted until the 121st Emperor Komei in the late Edo period (1603-1868). In the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the Onin War (1467-1477) broke out and Aoi Matsuri Festival was canceled, and the festival ceased for about 200 years. In 1476, Honden (main shrine ) and other shrine buildings were destroyed by fire. In 1574, Nobunaga Oda sent horses to Kamo-Kurabeuma. It is said that around 1589, Toyotomi Hideyoshi confiscated the shoen of Kamigamo Shrine, but donated 1,572 koku to the shrine. It is said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi conducted the Shikinen-Sengu in 1591. In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Shogunate, visited Kamigamo Shrine, In 1610, Futaba-Aoi (two-leafed Aoi) was presented to Tokugawa Ieyasu at Sunpu Castle, and the Aoi-Tsukai, in which Futaba-Aoi were presented to the Tokugawa shogunate every year, began. In 1628, the shrine buildings was built by Tokugawa Hidetada, the second shogun of the Edo Shogunate, at the request of the 108th Emperor Go-Mizunoo and his wife, Tofukumonin (Tokugawa Kazuko). In 1694, Aoi Matsuri Festival resumed, In 1708, the Imperial Palace was destroyed by fire and Hosodono became the temporary residence of the 113th Emperor Higashiyama. In 1863, the 121st Emperor Komei visited Kamigamo Shrine with Tokugawa Iemochi, the 14th Shogun of the Edo Shogunate, and others to for the expulsion of foreign countries. In 1863, Emperor Komei ordered the Shikinen-Sengu, and Honden and Gonden were rebuilt. In 1868, the 122nd Emperor Meiji visited the shrine to announce the restoration of the royal government. After the Meiji Restoration, due to the separation of Buddhism and Shintoism and the Haibutsu Kishaku, Jinguji Temple of Shimogamo Shrine was abandoned.
*reference・・・Kamigamo Shrine website

【Kamigamo Shrine Highlights (May be undisclosed)】

★Honden (Main Hall, 本殿, National Treasure) was rebuilt in 1863. Honden enshrines Kamo Wakeikaduchi-no-Mikoto (Kamo Wakeikaduchi-no-Okami), and is dedicated to sacred objects (sacred clothing, tableware, etc.). Kamo Wakeikaduchi-no-Mikoto is the son of Tamayorihime-no-Mikoto, who is enshrined in Higashi-Honden (East Main Hall) of Shimogamo Shrine.
★Gonden (権殿, National Treasure), like Honden, was rebuilt in 1863. Gonden was built next to Honden, and is used to perform Shinto rituals iin case of an emergency at Honden. The main deity, Wakeikaduchi-no-Mikoto (Kamo Wakeikaduchi-no-Okami), is also moved to Gonden when Honden is moved for the Shikinen-Sengu.
★Hosodono (細殿, Important Cultural Property) was rebuilt in 1628. Hosoden was used as Chikutouden for the emperor and the saio when they visited Kamigamo Shrine, where they prepared their costumes. In front of Hosodono are two piles of cone-shaped sand called Tate-Zuna (立砂). At Tate-Zuna,three pine needles (yo) are placed on the left side and two (in) on the right side.
上賀茂神社見どころ (Kamigamo Shrine Highlights)

【Events (confirmation required)】

★Kamo-Kurabeuma-Ashisoroeshiki (horse race, 賀茂競馬足汰式) is held every year on May 1st. Kamo-Kurabeuma-Ashisoroeshiki is held to decide the combination and order of horses to run according to the Ketsukeno-gi, the Sugake, and the Kyochi before Kamo-Kurabeuma.
★Kamo-Kurabeuma (horse race, 賀茂競馬) is held every year on May 5th. In Kamo-Kurabeuma, the horses are divided into two groups, red on the left and black on the right, and they start with a gap of about one horse’s length. If the gap widens, the horse in front wins, and if it narrows, the horse behind wins. It is said that if the left side wins, there will be a good harvest.
★Roto-no-gi (period procession, 路頭の儀) of Aoi Matsuri Festival (葵祭) is held every year on May 15th. (In case of bad weather, it is postponed to the next day, the 16th.) At Roto-no-gi, about 40 horses, 4 oxen, 2 gissha (ox carts), 1 koshi (palanquin) and about 500 people dressed in Heian period (794-1185) costumes, including saio-dai, parade from the Kyoto Imperial Palace to Shimogamo Shrine and from Shimogamo Shrine to Kamigamo Shrine.
★Kasagake-Shinji (笠懸神事) is held every year on the third Sunday of October. Kasagake-Shinji alternates between to-kagake, a 40-centimeter square target about 5 meters away, and ko-kagake, a 10-centimeter square target set up low to the ground. The archer shoots an arrow at the target from a galloping horse.

【Flower Calendar (cherry blossoms, etc )】

★The best time to see plum blossoms (梅) is from mid-February to mid-March. Red, white, and weeping plum trees are planted in front of Ni-no-torii Gate and along the Mitarai-gawa River in front of Ro-mon Gate, and it is said that the scenery of plum blossoms, Ni-no-torii Gate, Ro-mon Gate, and the Mitarai-gawa River is beautiful.
★The best time to see cherry blossoms (桜) is from early April to mid-April. About 100 cherry trees are planted, including the 150-year-old Saio-zakura, Gosho-zakura, which was given to Emperor Komei from the Imperial Palace, Miareza-kura near Tate-Zuna, Umadashi-no-sakura, Muchiuchi-no-sakura, Somei Yoshino, and it is said that the scenery of the cherry trees and the shrine grounds is beautiful.
(The best time to see the plants depends on the climate of the year.)

【Telephone (Please refrain from making phone calls.)】

Tel: +81-75-781-0011

【Recommended Walking Route】

The recommended walking route from Kamigamo Shrine is along the Kamo-gawa River via the Prefectural Botanical Garden to Shimogamo Shrine. Both Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine are World Heritage Sites, so a 30-minute walk will take you around both World Heritage Sites. In addition, the Botanical Garden has about 120,000 plants of about 12,000 species, and you can enjoy the plants.

【Remarks(access, parking, disclaimer, etc)】
If you plan to visit Kamigamo Shrine, be sure to check the latest information.


  1. 錦市場(Nishiki Market)
  2. 竹林の道(Bamboo Forest Path)
  3. 嵐山