Unusual red seals and good luck charms! 12 Shrines and Temples in Kansai related to the Chinese Zodiac

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In Japan, there are shrines and temples associated with animals. Some Japanese people visit shrines associated with the animals of the Chinese zodiac, which are used as numerals in Japan, or they visit the shrine of the zodiac sign of their birth year every year.


What is the Chinese Zodiac?
And, we introduce shrines & temples in Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka related to the animals of the Chinese zodiac.


What is the Chinese Zodiac?

Originally, the Chinese zodiac referred to a calendar combining the “ten signs of the zodiac” and the “twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac”, which had been used in China since ancient times. In modern Japan, the term “zodiac” is used to refer only to the “twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac” and refers to the 12 animals that represent the year.

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【Rat (Ne)】Year 2020

【Ox (Ushi)】Year 2021

【Tiger (Tora)】Year 2022

【Hare (U)】Year 2023

【Dragon (Tatsu)】Year 2024

【Snake (Mi)】Year 2025

Horse (Uma)】Year 2026

Ram (Hitsuji)】Year 2027

【Monkey (Saru)】Year 2028

【Rooster (Tori)】Year 2029

Dog (Inu)】Year 2030

Boar (I)】Year 2031


When the twelve Chinese zodiac signs come full circle, they are applied again from the first rat (ne). The Chinese zodiac is used as a motif for pictures on New Year’s greeting cards sent at the beginning of the year, as well as in everyday conversation, “It’s the year of the tiger,” and in fortune telling. In this way, the Chinese zodiac has become one of the most familiar numbers to Japanese people.


Let us continue to introduce Kansai shrines and temples associated with the Chinese zodiac.

【Rat】Kyoto Philosopher’s Walk, Otoyo Shrine

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Known as the “Shrine of the Koma-Nezumi” (guardian rat), this shrine is located on the Philosophical Road in Kyoto. Two statues of Koma-Nezumi guard the Okuni-sha Shrine on the shrine grounds. The A form on the right holds a scroll representing learning, and the Un form on the left holds a polka dot symbolizing fertility and prosperity of descendants.
The red seal, the red seal book, and the amulet are also designed after the Koma-Nezumi.
There are also other unusual statues in the precincts of the shrine, including a guardian snake, a guardian monkey, a guardian fox, and a guardian flying squirrel.



1, Shishigatani Miyanomaecho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take the Kyoto city bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line
Kyoto-kawaramachi Station and alight at Miyanomaecho.
It's a short walk away.

【Ox】Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto


It is the head shrine of about 12,000 Tenmangu and Tenjinsha shrines throughout Japan, which are dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, the god of learning. In the precincts of the shrine, there is a statue of a cow, the messenger of Sugawara no Michizane. The cow statue at the Cow Shrine, located in the northwest of the shrine grounds, is said to be the oldest one on the grounds, and it is said that if you stroke the cow statue, only one wish will come true.



Bakurocho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take the Kyoto city bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line Omiya Station
and alight at Kitano Tenmangu-mae.
It's a short walk away.

【Tiger】Ryosokuin, Kyoto Kawaramachi

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Ryosokuin Temple is dedicated to Bishamonten, the god of war, who is closely associated with the tiger. A rare Koma-Tora (guardian tiger) is placed here, and its expression is as brave as the real thing! After visiting the temple, you can also get a red seal.



591, Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


9-minute walk from Hankyu Kyoto Line Kyoto-kawaramachi Station

【Rabbit】Higashitenno Okazaki Shrine, Kyoto Kawaramachi


The symbol of this shrine is a rabbit, which comes from a legend that it is blessed with fertility and from the fact that there used to be many rabbits in the Okazaki area. In addition to the guardian rabbits and rabbits that bring children to the shrine, there is also a cute “Usagi-mikuji omamori (rabbit charm)”.



51, Okazaki Higashitenno-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take the Kyoto city bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line
Kyoto-kawaramachi Station and alight at OkazakiJinja-mae.
It's a short walk away.

【Dragon】Minatogawa Shrine, Hyogo

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One of the most famous shrines in Hyogo Prefecture, it is dedicated to the great general Masashige Kusunoki. The 164 paintings on the ceiling of the shrine pavilion were dedicated by famous artists from all over Japan, and the “Great Blue Dragon” by Hyogo-born Fukuda Bisen is a masterpiece. From January 1 to 3, those who receive the first New Year’s prayer can enter the hall to watch the ceremony, and from January 4 onward, visitors can look up from the south entrance of the main hall where the offering boxes are located.



3-1-1, Tamondori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo [MAP]


Right by Kobe Kosoku Line Kobe-Kosoku Station

【Snake】Himejima Shrine, Osaka

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Snakes are believed to symbolize rebirth in Japan, and Himejima Shrine is one of the shrines dedicated to the snake god.
Behind the shrine dedicated to the snake god, a part of a 900-year-old sacred tree that was burnt in an air raid in 1945 still remains and is said to be a “tree of fresh start”.

The main deity is Akaruhimenomikoto, who made a new start in this area, and is believed to be the “starting over” shrine, as everything was once lost in a war.



4-14-2, Himejima, Nishiyodogawa-ku, Osaka [MAP]


6-minute walk from Hanshin Main Line Himejima Station

【Horse】Kamo Wakeikazuchi Jinja Shrine ( Kamigamo Jinja), Kyoto

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Since ancient times, the shrine has had a strong connection with horses. It is said that seeing a white horse during the “White Horse Sightseeing Ceremony” held every year on January 7 will purge the shrine of evil spirits for the year. It is a rare shrine where the sacred horse can still be seen on a certain day.



339, Kamigamo Motoyama, Kita-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take the Kyoto city bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line
Kyoto-kawaramachi Station and alight at KamigamoJinja-mae.
It's a short walk away.

【Sheep】Kokuzo Hourinji, Arashiyama, Kyoto


Kokuzo Horinji Temple is a sightseeing spot where you can overlook the Arashiyama cityscape from the temple grounds. A statue of a sheep, which is believed to be a messenger or incarnation of Kokuzo Bosatsu, the main deity of the temple, is placed on the temple grounds, and it is said to bestow wisdom when touched.



16, Arashiyama Kokuzoyamacho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


9-minute walk from Hankyu Arashiyama Line Arashiyama Station

【Monkey】Ryuanji Temple, Minoh, Osaka

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The temple is the birthplace of the lottery and is said to be the first temple in Japan to worship Benzaiten. The temple grounds are located in a nature park inhabited by Japanese macaques. The nature park is also home to Minoh Falls, a tourist attraction selected as one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan.

The three monkeys with their eyes, ears, and mouths covered by their hands represent the teaching of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” = “it is better not to see, hear, or speak of evil things”.



2-23, Minookoen, Minoh-shi, Osaka [MAP]


18-minute walk from Hankyu Minoh Line Minoh Station

【Rooster】Nagata Shrine, Hyogo


Rooster have long been revered as messengers of the gods. It is said that roosters used to roam the shrine grounds and that the shrine parishioners never ate rooster meat or eggs. The ornate decorations of the hall of worship are also worth noting.



3-1-1, Nagata-cho, Nagata-ku, Kobe, Hyogo [MAP]


7-minute walk from Kobe Kosoku Line Kosoku-Nagata Station

【Dog】Nakayamadera Temple, Hyogo

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Nakayama-dera Temple is famous for its prayers for easy childbirth. Since dogs are light in childbirth, many women visit the temple on the day of the dog to pray for easy delivery. The gifts for safe delivery are also popular.



2-11-1, Nakayamadera, Takarazuka, Hyogo [MAP]


Right by Hankyu Takarazuka Line Nakayama-kannon Station

【Boar】Goou Jinja Shinto Shrine, Kyoto Karasuma

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Goou Shrine is the site of an anecdote about a wild boar that saved the life of Prince Wake no Kiyomaro, whose tendon in his leg was cut. Because of this, the shrine is known as a guardian deity of the legs and feet, and Koma-Boar (guardian boar) is placed in front of the shrine.

The boar statue in the hand-watering basin is famous for bringing good luck when its nose is stroked. Good luck charms and ema (votive picture tablet) also have a wild boar motif.



385, Sakurazuruen-cho, Shimochojamachi-sagaru, Karasuma-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take the Kyoto Municipal Subway
from Hankyu Kyoto Line Karasuma Station
and alight at Marutamachi Station and 7-minute walk.

Visiting shrines associated with the Chinese zodiac and receiving blessings is one way to learn about Japanese culture. If you travel to Japan, be sure to visit one.

About the author

Your source for sweets and gourmet information!
Editor and writer in charge of outing information media in Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka area for more than 10 years.
I will introduce you to the most popular stores, talked-about gourmet foods, and sightseeing spots in Japan.



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