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Monday, August 11, 2008

Kompira-san Kotohira

琴平, 金刀比羅宮, こんぴらさん

Kompira-san, in the village of Kotohira in Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku, is a large mountain-side Shinto shrine complex dedicated to the guardian god of seafarers.

Kompira-san Kotohira

The visit to the shrine entails scaling 1,368 steps up on Mount Zozu and the Gohonsha (Main Hall) and the Ema-do Pavilion, though it is possible, if you still have the energy, to ascend another 500+ steps to reach the small Oku-sha shrine off to the right of the Main Hall. The aged and infirm are carried up in special palanquins.

Kompira-san Kotohira

Visitors approach the steps through a covered arcade and pass by some traditional sweet vendors (Gyonin Byakusho) under their parasols, who are all supposedly descendants of families who were allowed to sell in the grounds of the shrine from times gone past.

Kompira-san Gonin Byakusho

Places to explore on the way up include the Homotsukan Museum with painting and sculptures and the Shoin Art Museum with painted screens by Edo-period artist Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795).

Kompira-san Kotohira steps

Konpira-san plays host to a number of festivals including the colorful, night-time Otaisai in October and kemari (a kind of proto-soccer played by Shinto priests in elaborate Heian-period costume) on May 5, July 7 and also in December. Apart from Konpira-san kemari can only be seen in Kyoto.

On a clear day, there are fantastic views over the surrounding countryside and out to the Inland Sea.

The view from the top, Kompira-san Kotohira

Access

Konpira-san

Kotohira is easily accessible by train from Takamatsu 30km to the north east. Take a Kotoden train or JR train from Takamatsu. Kotohira is 75 mins from Kochi on the JR Dosan Line.

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