I’ve lived in Kyoto city nearly 10 years. Since I got involved in guiding overseas visitors, I’ve been to many places guiding and for research. There are more than 3,000 temples and shrines, many of them are not open to the public, it is impossible to visit them all, not that I intended to try it anyway.
Perhaps it’s surprising that in that time I’ve never visited such a well known shrine as Shimogamo. I always associate it with the Aoi (holyhock) festival which takes place in May and is one of the three major festivals in Kyoto along with Gion-Matsuri in July and Jidai-Matsuri in October. Though I thought it a must-see-place my daily routine makes it difficult to pop in. Anyway, it can be seen as a good example both of grandiose-scale shrine architecture and Shinto ritual practice.
I’ll tell you a little about Shimogamo Shrine.
The origin is unknown but it is one of the oldest shrines in the city and existed before the formation of Kyoto as a family shrine of indigenous Kyoto clan, Kamo. The official name is Kamomioya-Jinja (jinja means Shinto shrine), but nobody calls it that and uses the familiar name, Shimogamo-Jinja. Although the shrine is located in the centre of the city it still has a decent amount of woodland around it creating a pleasant atmosphere, enough to forget you are in the city centre. It is designated a World Heritage Site along with other temples and shrines in Kyoto.