Shimogamo Shrine is one of the 17 Historic monuments of Ancient Kyoto and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This has been the site of a Shinto Shrine for over 2,000 years, and is one of the oldest in all of Japan.
While many Temples and Shrines have lost their connection with the neighborhood throughout the centuries and are no longer a part of daily life, that is not the case with Shimogamo. While we were there we saw two wedding parties with the lovely brides wearing traditional wedding outfits and an infant blessing. Along with several people praying in the inner shrine areas.
A Shinto bridal couple. This image is a google borrow, we didn't want to intrude upon their day by snapping their photo.
One thing that sets this shrine apart is that Tadasu no Mori is a sacred grove which is part of the shrine grounds. Forest of Correction or Tadasu no Mori is a 12.4 hectare preserved primeval forest that is not pruned nor planted but left to grow wild.
However, they do work to keep the large trees alive by wrapping the trunks to keep them from rotting, and many of the largest trees have branches or entire trunks that are supported.
When nature finally wins the battle of death these monster trees are allowed to lay and rot and give back to the land. The caretakers from the shrine will cut the trees into large sections and will often encourage their rotting by putting earth on them.
The shrine grounds are alive with water, in the form of creeks and a spring, water tumbling and murmuring ebbing and flowing, it is one of the most peaceful places we have visited. Birds sing in the trees, the trees add to the forest song with their leaves ruffling in the breeze. Modern life with its concerns and worries retreats in this ancient place and peace steals into the soul, refreshing and revitalizing.
While standing creek-side watching leaves swirl and race away from us, I looked down and shrieked and jumped AWAY from the creek! Greg thought I had gone mad, until he saw this monster clinging onto the bottom... Yep, tis a poisonous centipede.
Upon entering all Shrines and Temples you are supposed to pour water over you hands, and rinse out your mouth. It is a purification ritual, one that I often performed. It somehow is relaxing and the water is always cold and tastes of minerals.
We don't know the why of this tree, except possibly its incredible age, but this tree is obviously revered. There are living trees in Japan that have been aged between 1,500 and 3,000 years. This tree is certainly an age giant. Interesting side note, the railing surrounding this tree is made of concrete!
There is a long lovely peaceful walk between the city and the shrine.
These are all taken within the Shrine.
Then we jumped into a taxi and rode to Ryoanji Temple. Now, except for To-ji there hasn't been a Buddhist Temple that we felt anything at. That was not the case for Ryoanji. There was a presence there that was powerful and yet gentle and calm. This temple started life as an aristocrat's villa and was converted to a Zen Buddhist Temple in 1450. The gardens are extensive and are arranged as "rooms" where you can only see one room at a time, and at no time can you see into another room from the one you are in. The paths wind around opening vistas of beauty and calmness. There were very few people visiting that day and it was nice not to fight the crowds.
The statue of Buddha
With a stone lantern
Yet another Rock friend.
This Temple has a rock Zen garden. It was so large that we had trouble photographing it, so you get just two pieces of it.
Here is a very famous stone water basin, a tsukubai,
Around the outsides of the stone are 4 Chinese characters,
This impressed me enough to buy a trinket with this on it.
We stood for the longest time trying to figure out the why of these trees. All we know is there were signs everywhere telling one not to touch!
A beautiful vista of the forest and the reflecting pond