August 13, 2006
by Maki Mizobata; Natsuki Mitsuya
Matsunoo Grand Shrine (also known as Matsuo Grand Shrine) is located at the west end of Shijo Street, beyond Matsuo Bridge. This shrine is the oldest shrine in Kyoto, and the divinity worshipped here is a god of brewing sake. Throughout the year, more than a thousand people who are engaged in brewing sake visit Matsunoo Grand Shrine. There is also a famous well, Kame-no-I, as well as three gardens, and the treasury and Honden have been designated as important cultural properties.
In ancient times, the people who settled in the area around this shrine orshipped a boulder on Mt. Matsuo called Iwakura as their guardian deity. In 5 AD, a lord of the Hata clan, who had emigrated from Korea, settled in the area and introduced agriculture and forestry. The Hata clan also chose the deity of Mt. Matsuo as its guardian deity. In 701, Hata-no-imikitori built the shrine. Because the Hata clan had a lot of power and money, they were involved in the relocation of the Imperial capital to Nagaoka-kyo (784) and later to Heian-kyo (794). Therefore, they won the Imperial court’s confidence, and Matsunoo Grand Shrine was honored by the Imperial house. Not only has this shrine long played a role in ensuring the peace of the nation and protecting the people who live around it, but the shrine also houses guardian deities of cultivation, flood control, and trade. Since the Hata clan introduced to Japan the method of brewing sake, brewers and makers of miso paste visit Matsunoo Grand Shrine to pray for the success of their endeavors.
Matsunoo Grand Shrine enshrines Oo-yamagui-no-kami and Nakatsu-shima-hime-no-mikoto. The former is a male deity who governs Mt. Hiei and Mt. Matsuo. The latter, otherwise known as Ichiki-shima-hime-no-mikoto, is a female deity who protects people during their travels.
Since the time the Hata clan founded the shrine, the Honden, or the main shrine building, has been through several reconstructions, and the present one was built in 1397 and repaired in 1542 during the Muromachi period. Because of its unique style of roof, which is called Matsuo-zukuri, or Matsuo style, the Honden has been designated as an important cultural property.
Shofu-en has three famous gardens: Iwakura, Horai and Kyokusui. These gardens were designed by Mirei Shigemori during the Showa era. They are not so old but are among the greatest of the works made after the Meiji era. He designed them with a combination of rocks, and the opposite ideas of “stillness” and “movement” are harmonized well.
・Iwakura Garden(The ancient era style)
This garden was made to be the spiritual place for the god of Mt. Matsuo. Two main boulders symbolize the god and the goddess who are enshrined in this shrine. Other rocks around them represent dieties dependent on the main ones.
・Horai Garden (Kamakura era style)
The Kaiyu style, which you can enjoy by walking around the garden, is used here, and there are islands in the pond. In this garden, we can imagine a place where an unworldly man lives. It is said that this garden expresses Horai ideas, which include a longing for a world where people will not grow old and die.
・Kyokusui Garden (Heian era style)
The Heian era, when Matsunoo Grand Shrine was most prosperous, is the theme of this garden. Water channels its way along the foot of a hill, curving seven times, and there are many glaucous (light blue and green) rocks on the hill. The design is simple, but its color scheme is unique.
Kame-no-I (A well)
Near the waterfall Reiki-no-taki is a well of spring water, Kame-no-I, which is said to produce a mysterious effect. This water is famous for producing longevity and revival. Sake brewers put the water of Kame-no-I into their sake because not only do they adore the deities but also they believe the sake will not go bad.
Sake-no-Shiryokan (Museum of Sake)
Since Matsunoo Grand Shrine has housed a god of sake from ancient times, it is believed that sake brewed with water from here will bring people happiness and prosperity. In the Museum of Sake,we can see the tools used in brewing sake that were donated by sake brewers, and also we can learn about the tradition and history of sake.
There are about 3,000 Japanese rose bushes within the shrine’s precinct. The Japanese rose is most beautiful in April and May when it blooms. Especially, the harmony of the stone bridge, fresh green leaves, and Japanese rose bushes along the Ichinoi River is wonderful.
The Matsunoo Festival consists of two processions: Shinko-sai and 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.
- By bus: Take Kyoto city bus No. 28 or Kyoto bus No. 73 from Kyoto Station to the “Matsuo-taisha-mae” bus stop.
- By Hankyu Railway: Get off at “Matsuo” station.
Fees for Garden and Treasure House
- Adult: 500 yen
- Student: 400 yen
- Child: 300 yen
*Admission to Sake-no-Shiryokan (Museum of Sake) is free.
- Garden: 9:00 – 16:00 (9:00 – 16:30 Sundays and holidays)
- Museum of Sake: 9:00 – 16:00