Shimogamo Shrine (Aoi Matsuri,location,history)

Shimogamo Shrine, Aoi Matsuri

The information about Shimogamo Shrine is presented here. Shimogamo Shrine was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in 1994 as a “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)”. Shimogamo Shrine, together with Kamigamo Shrine, hosts Aoi Matsuri Festival (Aoi Festival) every year in May. Aoi Matsuri Festival is one of the three major festivals in Kyoto, along with Gion Matsuri Festival (Gion Festival) and Jidai Matsuri Festival (Jidai Festival). 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.

【Shimogamo Shrine Location Map & Directions】

Address: 59 Izumigawa-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Access (How to get there): Shimogamojinja-mae bus stop (short walk), Keihan Demachiyanagi Station (about 10 minutes on foot)

【Opening Hours & Closed (confirmation required)】

Opening Hours: 6:30-17:30
Closed: open year round

【Entrance Fees & Tickets (confirmation required)】


【Shimogamo Shrine History】

Shimogamo Shrine (Shimogamo Jinja, 下鴨神社) is officially called Kamo Mioya Shrine (Kamo Mioya Jinja, 賀茂御祖神社). Shimogamo Shrine is said to have originated during the reign of the first Emperor Jinmu (660 B.C.-582 B.C.), when the deity Kamo-Taketsunumi-no-mikoto descended on Mt. Mikage-yama, located at the western foot of Mt. Hiei-zan. In the oldest official history of Japan, “Nihon-Shoki (completed in 720 )” in the article of February, the 2nd year of Emperor Jinmu (659 B.C.), it is written that the clan that enshrined Kamo-Taketsunumi-no-mikoto was the Kamo clan. Later, in 580 B.C., miare ritual was held, and in 28 B.C., the shrine was said to have consecrated a sacred treasure. According to the “Kamo-sha Zokeiki”, there is a record of the construction of a mizugaki at Shimogamo Shrine in 90 B.C., and it is said that Shimogamo Shrine was founded before that time. It is said that Aoi Matsuri Festival (Aoi Festival) began at Shimogamo Shrine during the reign of the 29th Emperor Kinmei (539-571) in the late Kofun period. According to the “Honcho-Gatsuryou” and “Nenchu-Gyojisho”, Aoi Matsuri Festival was held in April 544. During the reign of Emperor Kinmei, wind and flood disasters caused famine and epidemics, and Urabe no Ikiwakahiko’s fortune telling said that it was a curse from Kamo-no-Okami, so the festival was held on a lucky day in April, when horses were hung with bells, people wore boar heads, and the horse race was held, which is said to be the origin of Aoi Matsuri Festival. It is said that Shimogamo Shrine became a government-run shrine in 677, and the shrine buildings were built in 678. 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 794, when the capital was moved to Heian-kyo, Shimogamo Shrine became the deity for the protection of the royal castle, and the 50th Emperor Kanmu made his first visit to the shrine. In 807, Shimogamo Shrine was elevated to the rank of Shoichi, and Aoi Matsuri Festival became an imperial festival. Aoi Matsuri Festival flourished during the Heian period (794-1192). 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. Around 820, Jinguji Temple was built at Shimogamo 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 Shimogamo 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. In 1081, Shimogamo Shrine was listed as one of the top seven out of 22 shrines. At the end of the Heian period (794-1185), more than 60 shoen and mikuria were donated to the shrine. In 1221, Shimogamo Shrine was destroyed by fire during the Jokyu-no-ran (War). In the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the Onin War (1467-1477) took place, Shimogamo Shrine was destroyed by military fire, and Aoi Matsuri Festival was canceled and interrupted for about 200 years. In the Aduchi-Momoyama period (1573-1603), Toyotomi Hideyoshi confiscated the shoen of Shimogamo Shrine, but donated 540 koku to the shrine. In 1694, Aoi Matsuri Festival and Mikage Matsuri Festival were resumed. In 1854, the Dairi (Imperial Palace) was destroyed by the Kaei-no-taika (fire), and the 121st Emperor Komei took temporary refuge in Shimogamo Shrine, which became his temporary imperial palace. After the Meiji Restoration, due to the separation of Buddhism and Shintoism and the Haibutsu Kishaku, Jinguji Temple of Shimogamo Shrine was abandoned.
*reference・・・Shimogamo Shrine website

【Shimogamo Shrine Highlights (May be undisclosed)】

★Higashi-Honden (East Main Hall, 東本殿, National Treasure) and Nishi-Honden (West Main Hall, 西本殿, National Treasure) were rebuilt in 1863. Higashi-Honden enshrines Tamayorihime-no-mikoto who is the mother of Kamowakeikazuchi-no-mikoto, the deity of Kamigamo Shrine. Nishi-Honden enshrines Kamotaketsunumi-no-mikoto who is the father of Tamayorihime-no-mikoto.
★Buden (舞殿, Important Cultural Property) was built around 1628. Buden is used for dedication ceremonies such as the Eto-kigansai. During Aoi Matsuri Festival, the emperor’s imperial envoys read the Gosai-mon written on benigami, and Azumaasobi, a type of gagaku, was dedicated in Buden.
★Hashidono (橋殿, Important Cultural Property) was rebuilt around 1628. Hashidono was built over the Mitarashi-gawa River. At Hashiden, a Shinto ritual is usually held during the New Year holiday. At Hashidono, Shinto rituals such as Mitoshiroe and performing arts such as Yamato Mai have been held in Hashidono since ancient times..
下鴨神社見どころ (Shimogamo Shrine Highlights)

【Events (confirmation required)】

★Yabusame-Shinji (yabusame ritual, horseback archery, 流鏑馬神事) is held every year on May 3rd. In Yabusame-Shinji, the roadsides are purified so that Aoi Matsuri festival can be held safely and peacefully. Three targets are set up in the baba (horse field) and archers shoot arrows from the top of running horses to aim at the target.
★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 will be postponed to the next day, the 16th.) At Roto-no-gi, 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.
★Hotarubi-no-Chakai is held every year in June. At Hotarubi-no-Chaka, hundreds of fireflies are released into the the precincts. Ura-Senke tea ceremonies are held and traditional performing arts such as gagaku are dedicated.
★Mitarashi-matsuri (御手洗祭, Ashituke-shinji, 足つけ神事) is held every year in July (around Ox Day). During Mitarashi-matsuri, people soak their feet up to their knees in the Mitarashi-ike pond in front of the Mitarashi Shrine and light candles to pray for good health. It is also said to bring blessings for easy childbirth.

【Flower Calendar (cherry blossoms, etc )】

★The best time to see plum blossoms (梅) is from early February to early March. The red plum trees, also known as Korin-no-Ume (Korin’s plum tree), are planted near the ring bridge over the Mitarashi-gawa River, and it is said that the scenery of Korin-no-Ume, the ring bridge, the Mitarashi-gawa River, and Ro-mon Gate is beautiful.
★The best time to see autumn leaves (紅葉) is from mid-November to late November. Maple trees, including the over 300-year-old Takaoka-kaede, ginkgo trees, and other plants are distributed in Tadasu-no-Mori Forest and other areas, and it is said that the scenery of autumn leaves, the Mitarashi-gawa River, and the Momiji Bridge over the Shiomi-no-gawa stream near Kawai Shrine is beautiful.
(The best time to see the plants depends on the climate of the year.)

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

Tel: +81-75-781-0010

【Recommended Walking Route】

The recommended walking route from Shimogamo Shrine is along the Kamo-gawa River via the Prefectural Botanical Garden to Kamigamo Shrine. Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine are both World Heritage Sites, so a 30-minute walk will take you around both World Heritage Sites. There are places along the Kamo-gawa River where cherry trees have been planted, and you can enjoy watching the cherry blossoms during the cherry blossom season.

【Remarks(access, parking, disclaimer, etc)】
If you plan to visit Shimogamo 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