Kamigamo Shrine is situated in a quiet residential area in the north of Kyoto, and is a little off the main tourist routes and therefore often less-crowded than shrines in the city centre, though no less impressive.
The shrine is a designated World Heritage site, and most of the shrine buildings are classified as Important Cultural Properties.
Established in the 7th Century, a hundred years before Kyoto (Heiankyo) was founded, it is nevertheless about one hundred years younger than its sister shrine, Shimogamo Shrine.
Both shrines were built by the powerful Kamo family who moved to this area from Yamato (
When the Imperial capital moved to Heiankyo (present day
Kamo Sai, the correct name for Aoi Matsuri, one of the 3 major festivals of
One approaches the shrine across a large open space that is lawn, rather than the more usual gravel, and this gives it the feel of a park.
On September 9th the shrine holds the Crow Sumo ceremony, where young boys from the neighborhood compete at sumo to entertain the gods. Before the sumo, shrine priests perform rituals while emulating the call and movements of crows, hence the name.
Entrance to the shrine is free, but at most mornings there is a short tour of the shrine including a purification ritual for which a 500yen “donation” is asked.
With advance notice, groups can book a tour of the shrine with a lecture in English, plus view some of the shrines treasures not normally open to the public.
Kamigamo Shrine can be reached by Kyoto Bus numbers 30, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39, or Kyoto City Bus numbers 4, 46, and 67.
See more photos of Kamigamo here
Review of a book on Kamigamo here