August 20, 2015
by Chinami Aizawa
Kyoto has many temples and shrines. Kinkaku Temple, Ginkaku Temple, Yasaka Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine are all very big and famous. Many people, not only from Japan, but also from foreign countries, visit those places. However, when visiting Kyoto, it is also a good idea to try to get off the beaten path and see a smaller, local temple or shrine that most visitors never get to see. One such place is the Koromode Shrine, which is located in the Nishikyogoku region of Kyoto’s Ukyo Ward. It’s a small shrine surrounded by nature.
Differences Between Temples and Shrines
Before anything else, do you know the difference between temples and shrines? There are several key differences. First, temples are religious buildings associated with Buddhism, which was brought to Japan from India and China and other S.E. Asian countries. Shrines, on the other hand, are buildings devoted to the gods of Shinto. Shinto is Japanese religion. Many Japanese people go to temples for worship, weddings, and New Years visits. They go to the shrine, however, to attend funerals and to take part in seasonal festivals. Also, temples have tombs, while shrines have iconic gateways at their entrances, also known as torii.
About the Koromode Shrine
The name of this shrine comes from the forest of Koromode. There are old and famous classical Japanese poems that refer to “the forest of Koromode,” such as the Pillow Book by Sei Shounagon. It says that the trees of Koromode forest are really beautiful in autumn, and you can enjoy the view of each season in the forest. Some say this forest was actually nearby the current site of the Koromode Shrine. However, others who study Kyoto history said the forest was near a different shrine, called the Matsunoo-taisha Shrine. So there are several views on the origin of the name.
The deities enshrined within the Koromode Shrine are Tamayorihimenomikoto, who is the god of the wilds, and Hayamatonokami, who is the god of agriculture. Koromode Shrine is actually an outer precinct shrine of Matsunoo-taisha Shrine, a larger shrine located in Arashiyama. It is a really famous tourist spot for both Japanese and foreign visitors to Kyoto, so many people visit there every day. However, no tourists visit Koromode Shrine. This is because Koromode Shrine is actually a local shrine, serving the Kori area of Kyoto. So only people who live in Kori visit this shrine on a regular basis.
How to Make an Offering to the God of the Shrine
When you visit a shrine, you might see many Japanese people making an offering to the god of the shrine by tossing money into an offertory box. Do you know why people do that? Actually, even some Japanese people don’t know exactly why. They think that you have to put money into the box to make your wishes come true. However, this is a misunderstanding. You have to put money in the box so that the god of the shrine will grant your wish. There is a specific method of making an offering to the god of the shrine:
- Step in front of the Main Hall and make a slight bow once.
- Between you and the Main Hall is an offertory box. Put a coin in the offertory box and pull the rope. Then you will hear the sound of a bell.
- Make a low bow twice.
- Clap your hands twice.
- Make a low bow once.
- Make a slight bow once.The money you offered is used for maintenance and repairs of the shrine.
Festivals at Koromode Shrine
There are several festivals at Koromode Shrine throughout the year. The first is on the Sunday just after April 20th. It is called Oide, which means ‘Welcome’. 21 days later, there is another festival called Okaeri, which means ‘Going Back’. During the interval between the Oide and Okaeri festivals, a portable shrine from the main Matsunoo-taisha Shrine is moved to the Koromode Shrine. At that time, the Koromode Shrine becomes an Otabijo (temporary shrine) of the Matsunoo-taisha Shrine. This is a very big festival for the Koromode Shrine. For this reason, many local people of all ages have a great time at the shrine.
Good news: you don’t have to pay money to visit Koromode Shrine. It’s free. However, you should bring some coins if you want to pray properly. I recommend you put 5 yen in the offertory box at the beginning of your prayer. In Japanese, 5 yen is pronounced ‘goen’, which is also the same sound as the Japanese word for ‘fate’. That’s why many people put 5 yen in the offertory box. It is auspicious.
There don’t seem to be any set visiting hours. So, you can go to Koromode Shrine just about anytime. I recommend you go there in the evening. Because the shrine is located in a residential area, there are many houses, a park, a nursery school, and a supermarket near Koromode Shrine. The evening is the time when people return home from the day’s activities. If you go there in the evening, you can see the real Japanese lifestyle from the shrine, such as Japanese men arriving home from work in their suits, Japanese boys playing baseball in the park, and Japanese mothers riding a bike to go buy groceries for supper, and so on. I think you can’t see real Japanese people’s life style at the famous tourist spots. This is why a visit to a local shrine like Koromode is so special.
How to Get There
Kyoto City Bus from Kyoto Station Take bus #73 for Rakusai Bus Terminal from Kyoto station. Get off at Nishikyogoku bus stop. If you follow the red line on the map, you can reach Koromode Shrine in about 10 minutes.
Hankyu Train from Kawaramachi You have to take the train for Umida iki from the Hankyu Kawaramachi station. Get off at Nishikyogoku station and walk for 15 minutes.