What are the Kamo Shrines?
Both Kamigamo and Shimogamo Shrines deify the gods of the Kamo Clan, and together they are called the Kamo Shrines. As well, they have been registered as World Heritage sites and are the oldest shrines in Kyoto. Worshipped from ancient times, Kamigamo Shrine was built in 678.
A monument on the shrine grounds made from a conical pile of sand known as tateishi can be seen which resembles the mountain onto which the gods descended. Also, the shrine is known for the god of matchmaking, and Kataoka-no-Yashiro Shrine, where Lady Murasaki of “The Tale of Genji” fame had gone several times to pray, is popular for its benefits for matchmaking. Every year on May 15th, there is the Aoi Festival, one of Kyoto’s Three Big Festivals, which starts from Kyoto Imperial Palace through Shimogamo Shrine and up to Kamigamo Shrine, taking approximately 5 hours. Horses and more than 500 people dressed up to resemble the Heian nobility make the journey in a line. The origins of the annual festival date back to the year 545 during a time of tranquility and huge harvests.
At Aioi Shrine which is known for the god representing success in love, there stands a sacred tree known as the Renri-no-Sakaki. It is a strange-looking tree with two trunks intertwining in the middle to become one, and it is said that they did so through the power of the matchmaking god. You can also see the kitchen which was used to cook for the god known as Ooi-dono. The vast Tadasu-no-Mori forest within the grounds has trees that are between 200 and 600 years old. There is also Kawai Shrine which is known for the god of beauty, and it is where you can select a mirror ema, or votive picture, with a face on it and then paint it with makeup while writing a wish on the back in the hopes of it coming true.