Shimogamo Shrine

Empowered by the holy water

Text: Keiko Nakamura / Photo: Takashi Oka 

There are many temples and shrines in Kyoto that has a strong relationship with water source. Shimoda Shrine, a world heritage in the middle of the city, is one such water-spot. Water streaming through the forest, springing out at the shrine. A water-rich scene awaits you only about 10 minutes walk from the Keihan Line, Demachiyanagi Station.

Tadasu-no-mori is a forest locating south from the shrine, at the river delta of Kamogawa and Takanogawa. A huge forest triple the size of Tokyo Dome, spanning over 12 hectares. Many come to this deep forest for a walk as if being lured by something holy. Ulmaceae trees fill the area, with some streams of water running in between. Kamono Chomei once read a poem calling these pure sacred streams 'semi no ogawa'. For a sacred place lovers, Shimogawa Noryo Furuhon Matsuri (second hand book fair) held every summer is a must-go.

Going up the Semino Ogawa stream, the flow will change its name to Narano Ogawa, and by the time it goes into the Shrine's premises, it is called Mitarashigawa. The water coming up from 50 meters underground increases its volume the most during summer season. This unique phenomenon is counted as one of the 7 wonders of this shrine. Mitarashi Festival, a foot bathing ritual, is held every year at late July. It was a custom that started among loyal class which spread among the commoners as a summer ritual. The candles and lantern creates a romantic night scene during this time. People go in the river and pray for safe and sound lives. Aoi Festival in May has a hand bathing ritual at the river carried out by women dressed in junihitoe (12 layered ceremonial kimono) acting as Saioudai (queen of the festival). It is one of the three major festivals in Kyoto.

Visitors can enjoy mitarashi dango (dumpling covered with sweet soy sauce) that is formed to represent the bubbles in the water. Of the 5 dumplings skewered onto a stick, 1 is separated from the others. This represents the head of the body. People had once had a habit of offering dumplings at the shrine when receiving prayers, and taking them back home once they are done with the ritual. 

This spot will empower you amidst the hot weather.

ADDRESS: 59 Shimogamo Izumikawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
PHONE: +81(0)75-781-0010
HOURS: 5:30-18:00 (Winter 6:30-17:00, refer to website for Mitarashi Festival detail)