First Impressions: Yasaka-jinja in Kyoto






Hi everyone!

So, as you know, I’ve been living in Japan for just over two weeks near in the Osaka area. Last weekend I went to Kyoto for the first time. The event was pretty unstructured and I was happy to make new friends.

At 10am we met at my host university. As we entered the meeting place we were each given a number on a slip of paper. After a brief orientation on using the train system, including buying tickets and cultural expectations, we were broken up into groups and paired up with Japanese students that volunteered to show us the area. We were missing one person, so we ended up with a group of seven.


Group Photo at Kiyomizu Dera in Kyoto!
Pictured: (Bottom Left) Masha, (Top Left) Chinami, (Middle) Saya, (Top Middle) Yuki, Maddie, Me, and Kagari

After introducing ourselves we took a bus from the school to the station. Then, took a train from Hirakata-shi to Kyoto. It was incredibly hot and humid. It was Saturday afternoon and the trains were pretty busy, especially since so many other from our school were travelling at the same time. The total trip was about 40 minutes. Thankfully, we were able to communicate using Japanese and English well enough to make it there.

The first place on our list was suggested by our school: 八坂神社 Yasaka-Jinja (AKA Yasaka Shrine)


The main hall of Yasaka-Jinja


A photo of the dance stage at Yasaka-Jinja. Each lantern bears the name of a local business.


Maddie and Kagari making a wish to Susanoo, the Shinto God of wind and thunder.

First, we cleaned ourselves before entering, which thankfully our friends modeled for us. Then we walked around the shrine for about an hour. We talked to vendors that sold souvenirs, talked about the history of the shrine, and visited some smaller shrines including my favorite below, Utsukushi-gozen Shrine.


Utsukushi-gozen Shrine, is dedicated to three female deities of beauty: Ichikishima-hime-no-kami, Tagiri-hime-no-kami, and Tagitsu-hime-no-kami.


It is said that if you visit this shrine you will be blessed with beauty in both mind and body and it is well known that many young women, including the geisha and maiko, female Japanese dancers of Gion, come to visit the shrine.


In addition, it is said that if you wash your hands and face with the “beauty water” from the spring on the grounds, your skin and heart will be beautified.

We started to get a little early, and thankfully there were some food vendors in the shrine grounds. My friends stopped to get a delicious crab stick (no photos of the vendor allowed).


Chinami, Myself, and Maddie with her crab stick.


Unfortunately, the crab stick was not what Maddie expected…

Eventually we went to get some real food at a restaurant specializing in tempura. We had some trouble translating what tempura was to one of our friends here. We tried everything we could think of: Google translate, looking at pictures on the menu, pantomiming, etc. Eventually one of our friends decided to eat elsewhere but the rest of our group still enjoyed our meal. I had ten-don with cold soba noodles and green tea.

On the way back to the train station, we walked through our final destination of Gion to try to spot some Maiko on the way to their appointments. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any, but it was nice to walk together with the whole group before we headed home.


Streets of Gion.