Matsuo Taisha, sometimes known as Matsunoo, is an interesting ancient shrine on the outskirts of Kyoto that offers a little more to see and do than most of the often visited shrines in the area. It is also less crowded.
Located near Arashiyama, it was founded in 701, almost 100 years before the founding of Kyoto. It was founded by the head of the Hata clan, an immigrant clan that ruled the area before the moving of the capital from Nara. The Hata also founded the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine.
The Hata were instrumental in bringing Sake brewing techniques from Korea, and the shrine has a deep and long association with sake brewers, who still take water from the sacred well Kame no I, located in the shrine.
The shrine grounds are home to 3,000 rose bushes which are in bloom during April and May.
About 30 years ago, the famous landscape designer and painter, Mirei Shigemori, built (at great expense) three gardens at the shrine, the Iwakura Garden, in ancient style, the Horai Garden, in Kamakura era style, and the Kyokusui Garden, in Heian era style. They are considered some of the best modern gardens in Japan.
The two main festivals at the shrine are the Shinko-sai, and the Kanko-sai. Shinko-sai is held on the first Sunday after April 20th. Six mikoshi, or portable shrines, are carried and ferried across the Katsura River to the opposite side, and each mikoshi is placed in a shrine there. Three weeks later, the mikoshi are returned to Matsunoo Grand Shrine, and this procession is called Kanko-sai.
Entrance to the shrine grounds are free, but there is a 500 yen entrance fee to visit two of the three gardens, as well as a Sake Museum and a small museum showing shrine treasures, including such rarities as sculptures of Kami (gods).
Matsuo Station, Hankyu Arashiyama Line.
City Bus 71.
Address: 3 Arashiyama-miyamachi, Nishikyo-ku
Tel: 075 871 5016
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Wednesday, February 06, 2008