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Heian Shrine

  The magnificent torii gate on Jingu michi Street, south of the main entrance to Heian Shrine, marks the shrine as a major tourist attraction, and justifiably so. Curiously, given the hundreds of shrines in the city, this is one of the newest.
  Heian Jingu was constructed in 1895 to commemorate 1,100 years of the city’s founding, and dedicated to emperors Kammu (Kyoto’s first emperor, 794) and Komei (1831 67, father of the Meiji Emperor).
  The setting is a little east of the Kamo River, thus outside the ancient city proper, but a splendid site to construct one of the city’s most gorgeous stroll gardens.
  The present buildings, with their vermilion woodwork and green tile roofs, closely resemble the original palace but were constructed at two thirds the original size. Ablaze in sunlight, they are a notable testament to Japanese carpentry skills. Entrance to the shrine is free but the expansive stroll garden requires a fee.
  Designed by Ogawa Jihei (1860 1933), one of Kyoto’s foremost gardeners, the grounds blend contemporary and ancient aesthetics. Copious and innovative use of flowering plants is incorporated into the millennium old layout favored by Heian nobles.
  Paths first wind through the hanging cherry garden, an incomparable display of deep pink blossoms in April, possibly one of the loveliest places on earth when in bloom. The first pond, surrounded by azalea bushes and longstemmed irises, is best seen in May and June. The stepping stones in the pond were formed from the stone pillars from Gojo and Sanjo bridge supports. The pond beyond has a variety of later blooming azaleas and water lilies in June. The unadorned wooden bridge that crosses the pond was moved here from a former Imperial palace and has bench seating that allows visitors a restful view of the grounds.
  In early June, when the open courtyard is the setting for torchlit Noh plays during the evenings, the shrine provides an exotic backdrop to this traditional form of drama.
  This is a popular shrine for parents to come and ask the Shinto gods for blessings for their three-, five and seven year old children and for weddings in the special hall to the east of the Main Hall. The gods play a vital part in dispensing their grace on new borns, the growth of children and young couples, so many suppli cants come especially on those occasions.