Teamlab in Shimogamo Shrine

November 25, 2019

By Akari Higashino & Natsumi Nishimura

There are many shrines in Kyoto. One of the most famous shrines is Shimogamo Shrine. We will introduce you to a special event there that you can definitely enjoy.

Simogamo Shrine

It is officially called “Kamomioya Shrine”. Kyoto is built around the Kamogawa River. It is called “Shimogamo Shrine” because it is a shrine that sits on the Kamogawa River. Both the east and west main shrines are designated as national treasures. Shimogamo Shrine is very old and there is a record that the shrine was renovated in 90 B.C. and there is a theory that it was there before that. Excavations have revealed a lot of earthenware from the Jomon Period (14,000 – 1000 B.C.) and the remains of residences from the Yayoi Period (1000 B. C. – 300 A.D.) In addition, festivals, shrines, dedications and sacred treasures are recorded in the biography and history books. In 698 of “Shokunihongi”, there is an article that an order was issued to guard the shrine because there were many spectators gathered at the festival. From this, we can see that this shrine had a big and a grand festival held before the Nara Period (710 – 794).

The Highlights of the Shrine

Walk! Walk!

There are some highlights of shrine precinct. First, the Aioinoyashiro has the god of marriage. Aioinoyashiro is part of Shimogamo. It is said that Aioinoyashiro is the place where you can get love power. The sacred tree is there. This tree is actually two branches tied together in the middle, so this is said to be giving us godlike power. The procedure for worship is easy for us. At the first, you write your wishes on the Ema, which is a board for that purpose. Second, you go to in front of Aoinoyashiro, and if you are female, you go around twice toward the right. However, a man goes around toward the left. Final, you dedicate your Ema. Your love will go well. The second highlight is Kawai Shrine in the Shimogamo Shrine. Kawai shrine is dedicated to the god of beauty. The procedure for worship is to make up your cosmetics on an Ema shaped hand mirror. You can draw your favorite face, so you will enjoy drawing, and you will be beautiful.

Summer Event


Shimogamo Shrine has a special event in summer. This event’s name is “Digitized Forest at the World Heritage Site of Shimogamo Shrine –Art by TeamLab- “. TeamLab is an organization that conducts an art project. The Digitized Forest means a forest remains a forest and become an art. This is the concept of event. Teamlab event in Shimogamo Shrine has been held since 2017. There are some artworks displayed at this event. First art is “Walk, Walk, Walk – Tadasu Forest at Shimogamo Shrine. This is like a projection mapping, and portrait people keep walking along the river in the forest. The characters of a work keep walking endlessly and facing various events. The visitors also follow them. This work is drawn in real time by a computer program. We can’t see the same portraits of people, images are forever changing. Second, “Floating, Resonating Spheres- Shimogamo Shrine.” This art features many bright floating spheres. These spheres change as if breathing and ring a beautiful sound. These seem to be breathing slowly. The spheres are touched by people, and they change color with the light and make a special sound. Third, “Resonating Forest and Autonomous Resonating Life-Tadasu Forest at Shimogamo Shrine”. This is a work of many ovoids and trees lighting on the road. The ovoids are pushed by people, and change color. Fourth, Autonomous Resonating Life on the Water –Mitarashi Pond at Shimogamo Shrine. This work is spheres floating on the surface of the water. The light reflected from the water’s surface is very beautiful. Finally, “Forest of Autonomous Resonating Life”. This work is a space filled with ovoids. People will surely be more conscious of their existence than usual from encountering these ovoids. All of them are wonderful works. This event will be enjoyable, regardless of age or sex. You should visit there once a year. Let’s have a fantastic time!


Shimogamo Shrine is a traditional and very famous shrine in Kyoto. In addition, there is special event which is such a fascinating event in summer. Of course, you can enjoy it anytime, but if you attend the event, you can enjoy it more. You should visit Simogamo Shrine if you go to Kyoto.


From Kyoto Station to Shimogamo Shrine-mae (or Aioinomori) by city bus. It takes about 30 minutes. 59 Izumikawacho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-0807 No regular holiday The opening hours 6:30 a.m. to 17:00 p.m.

One day trip in Kyoto

by Yuka Nakamura and Sakura Nakatani


When you come to Kyoto, where do you want to go? Actually, there are many famous spots such as Kiyomizu temple, Kinkaku temple and others. However, why don’t you go to Imamiya shrine and Shimogamo shrine? These are famous for dango (rice dumpling), so if you like eating sweet, please go there.

Moreover, when you go to these shrines, sometimes you will take a bus. Our recommendation is to use 1 day bus card, so we will introduce these shrine with using 1 day bus card. (600 yen for 1 passenger)



  • Kyoto station → Imamiya shrine

Take a bus from station B3, Kyoto City Bus 205 or 206, get off at Funaokayama (take about 45~50 minutes)


  • Imamiya shrine → Shimogamo shrine

Take Kyoto City Bus 205, get off at Shimogamo Shrine (takes about 16 minutes)

Take Kyoto City Bus 1, get off at Shimogamo Shrine (takes about 16 minutes)


  • Shimogamo shrine → Kyoto station

Take Kyoto City Bus 205, get off at Kyoto Station (takes about 31 minutes)

Take Kyoto City Bus 4, get off at Kyoto Station (takes about 32 minutes)


Aburimochi at Imamiya Shrine

Imamiya Shrine is also called “Tamanokoshi shine”. How about taking back some traditional Japanese sweets home? These are called Aburimochi. Aburamochi also are reputed to have a benefit of driving out evil spirits. If you come here, please try it.

“Aburimochi” is a famous Japanese sweets shop at Imamiya Shine in Kyoto. It is rice cake that is just as big as the thumb, coated with soybean flour, grilled over a charcoal fire, and dipped in white miso sauce. Long ago, there was an ancient tradition that Aburimochi were provided to the public at the approach to a shrine.

There are two shops selling Aburimochi across from the approach to Imamiya Shine. The delicious smell of grilled sweets drifts out from the edge of the eaves, as you approach the shrine, so you may suffer from having two choices. My advice is to enter both shops if you have enough time.



Kazariya is a shop which serves Aburimochi with tea. Aburimochi is grilled and coated with soybean flour. It is a bit sweet. The point of taste is the good flavor of rice cake and mild sweetness of white miso.

Shop information

  • Shop name: Kazariya
  • Price: 500 yen
  • Nearest station: Kyoto City Bus 46 line “Imamiya Shrine” 3 minutes by walking
  • Adress: 96 Imamiya-cho, Murasakino, Kita-ku, Kyoto city
  • Phone number: 075-491-9402
  • Business hours: 10:00~17:30
  • Closed: Wednesday



Aburimochi have been made for 1000 years with an unchanged recipe. They are coated with refreshing white miso and sweet sauce. The white miso sauce matches the mild and good flavor of rice cakes.

Shop information

  • Shop name: Ichimonjiwasuke (Ichiwa)
  • Price: 500 yen
  • Nearest station: Kyoto City Bus 46 line “Imamiya Shrine ” 2 minutes by walking
  • Address: 69 Imamiya-cho, Murasakino, Kita-ku, Kyoto city
  • Phone number: 075-492-6852
  • Business hours: 10:00~17:00
  • Closed: Wednesday


Which shop is tasty? In conclusion, both stores are delicious.

Kazariya’s Aburimochi are simple and look like they are handmade because of their irregular shape. The sauce is a bit sweet. On the other hand, Ichiwa’s Aburimochi have a uniform shape and good condition. Their sauce is a bit lightly seasoned. If you prefer sweeter sauce, you should go to Kazariya.

Both shops’ aburimichi cost 500 yen. Both shop offer free parking for 1 hour.



Mitarashi-dango at Shimogamo shrine

Mitarashi-dango (rice dumpling in a sweet soy sauce) came from the Mitarashi festival, which was held by Shimogamo shrine at Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto city. Although, there are other an ancient traditions, one story is that Mitarashi-dango were originally made and imitated the bubbles in Mitarashi pond in the precinct grounds.


The birthplace of Mitarashi-dango

Kamo Mitarashi Chaya

Mitarashi-dango came from Shimogamo shrine. Kamo Matarashi-chaya is an old-established teashop that was started in 1922. It is located in the west part of Shimogamo shrine. When you go inside that shop, you can smell roasting rice cakes. You can eat mitarashi-dango at this shop but also you can take some away if you want.

The wrapping of each mitarashi-dango has a picture of Shimogamo shrine and that shape looks like a chimaki (a cake wrapped in bamboo leaves) of Gion festival. A feature of this mitarashi-dango is that the top rice cake and the other four rice cakes are separate. There are two theories to explain this. The first theory is that the Kamakura period when emperor Go-daigo tied to draw from Mitarashi pond, one big bubble and four small bubbles appeared. Another theory is that mitarashi-dango imitated human body. Thus, the top rice cake symbolizesthe head and the others symbolize the arms and legs.

In addition to mitarashi-dango there are other sweets available here. These are are chestnut rice cakes, chestnut sweet bean jellies and bracken-starch dumplings.

Their mitarashi-dango is covered in brown sugar and soy sauce. It is matching with a rice cake and kuro mitsu (black syrup, similar to molasses).


Shop information

  • Shop name: Kamo Matarashi-chaya
  • Price: 420 yen
  • Nearest station: Kyoto City Bus 46 line “Imamiya Shine mae” by 3 minutes walking
  • Address: 53 Matsunoki-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto city
  • Phone number: 075-791-1652
  • Business hours: 9:30~19:00
  • Closed: Wednesday

In Kyoto, there are many sweet shops including these shops that we recommended. If you have an interest of Kyoto’s sweets, please search for them. After that, please come to Kyoto and try to eat a lot of sweets and find your favorite sweets!

Tea Gathering in the Glow of Fireflies

by Takafumi Miyauchi
Hotarubi no Chakai 蛍火の茶会
in Shimogamo Jinja 下鴨神社

Hotarubi no chakai is a special tea gathering that is held in June amidst the glow of live fireflies at Kyoto’s Shimogamo Shrine (also known as Kamomiya Shrine). “Hotaru” means “firefly”; “bi” means “fire “or “glow”; and “chakai” means a “tea gathering.” This magnificent event shows the essence of Japanese tradition. One of its aims is the preservation of Tadasu no Mori, “The Forest of Justice,” which surrounds Shimogamo Shrine. About 600 fireflies are released over a stream called Mitarashigawa as invitees to the tea ceremony enjoy their tea. A reservation is required to attend the ceremony, but many other fascinating programs are open to the general public.

This event starts at 5pm with a purification ceremony and a prayer to the shine god or “kami,” one of millions of gods that are worshipped in the Shinto faith. Shimogamo Shrine enshrines two Kami: Kamotaketsunomi no Mikoto and Tamayorihime no Mikoto. Also there are about twenty long-established stands selling specialities from 1pm. They include yatsuhashi, a popular Kyoto souvenir, and mitarashi dango, a common rice dumpling seasoned with sweet soy source; it is eaten all over Japan, but originated here.


17:00 – Purification ceremony and a prayer to the kami
18:00 – Koto performance
19:20 – Ouchou Mai
19:50 – Koto performance
Around 20:00 – Release of the fireflies
20:20 – Dressing of Junihitoe and Ouchou Mai

Purification ceremony and prayer to the kami

I arrived at Kamomioya Shrine right at 5pm. Entering from the west gate, I found that priests, guests, and a crowd had gathered in the center of the shrine grounds. Shrines are a place where people pray to kami, therefore this event, which was a dedication to the kami of the shrine, started with a prayer. The prayer was recited with a performance of gagaku (Japanese classical court music) after everyone was purified. Every person there offered a prayer by bowing his or her head down.

Koto Performance

When the sun was about to set, a koto performance began within a hall at the center of the shrine. The koto was accompanied by a shamisen (three-stringed banjo) and shakuhachi (vertical bamboo flute). It also included singing, thus enhancing the feeling of these traditional aesthetics of Japan.

Ouchou Mai

Ouchou Mai was a dance performed in the Heian period (794-1191). The dancers were dressed in stunning junihitoe and held court fans. Their movements were gracefully slow, with gagaku music playing in the background. Junihitoe is a type of kimono that is made of many gorgeous layers. Since both junihitoe and gagaku were created in the Heian period, along with many other cultural forms, the significance of the Heian period is recognized and appreciated by the Japanese in events such as this.

Dressing of Junihitoe and Ouchou Mai

Next, a dancer appeared on the stage in a plain costume. This was a demonstration of how to put on a junihitoe. Many people are curious about how one is worn, and so this event is a rare chance to see this kimono being put on. Dressing in junihitoe takes two people who are both proficient at the job. In total, nine layers were put on the dancer. The process is a repetition of adding layers, but it is important to retain a good shape by using red strings to hold the garments temporarily, and not tighten too much. The measurements of each garment are perfectly designed so that they appear as beautiful layers. After all the layers were put on, the dressers handed the dancer a set of papers for various uses and a court fan. That completed the dressing of junihitoe and the Ouchou Mai was then performed again as an ending to the night.

Searching for Fireflies

The firleflies are released over the Mitarashigawa. A cage holding fireflies was placed on a small pier at around 8pm (the big cage and some other smaller ones were on display in other places on the shrine grounds until the awaited time). At the time of the release, the site was completely filled with crowds, making it impossible to get close to the fireflies. Therefore I headed back when all the programs were finished. Tranquility had fallen with the darkness, and there were just a few people lingering. The fireflies had dispersed to their favorite places. Some went to bushes by the stream and others flew into the surrounding forest. My impression of the event gave me a sense of pathos and an appreciation for these little firefly lives; many different feelings were reflected in their glow.

About the shrine

Shimgamo Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Japan, is located just to the north of the confluence of the Kamo and Takase Rivers in north-central Kyoto. The history of this shrine dates back to prehistoric periods. The earliest reference to the shrine is a repair of the fence in 2 BC, suggesting that the shrine had existed even before that time. Since then, the shrine has played a central role in the religious lives of Kyotoites, and has served as a guardian of Japan and Kyoto. The importance of the shrine was especially significant in the Heian period, since prayers for the success of the capital were held there. This shrine has often been described in literature, including an appearance in the Tale of Genji. Today, Shimgamo Shrine has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The shrine contains 53 buildings that are all recognized as Important Cultural Properties. A number of events also take place there throughout the year, including the 1400-year-old Aoi Matsuri festival, which is celebrated on May 15th and is one of the three great festivals in Kyoto.

About the event

Hotarubi no chakai is held in the beginning of June. This year it was held on June 13th, the 19th time it has been held. The connection between the shrine and tea began in the Kansho period (1441-1446) and tea ceremonies with fireflies were common until the Meiji period (1868 – 1912). In later days, however, those events ceased as the shrine was nationalized, and the fireflies became extinct in the surrounding forest because of pollution in the 1940s. But people recently started to clean up the area and release firefly larvae. Consequently, the number of fireflies began to increase in the forest, and so the tea ceremony was revived in 1991, after about 100 years of absence.


Opening hours: 06:30 – 17:30
City bus: 1, 4, 205
Nearest station: Demachiyanagi (Keihan Railway)