Kifune Shrine, one of the most famous power spots in Japan, is a small shrine located in Kifune-cho, at the foot of Kurama Mountain in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City, and is dedicated to the god of water. Located at the source of the Kamo River that flows through Kyoto, it is also called “Kyoto’s inner city” because it is filled with cool air even in mid-summer.
In this issue, we will introduce Kifune Shrine’s benefits, access, attractions, charms, and red seals.
What is Kifune Shrine?
Kifune Shrine enshrines the god of water, the source of life, and is the main shrine of the water gods, numbering 2,000 shrines throughout Japan. The date of its founding is extremely old, and although the origin of the shrine is unknown, it is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, as there is a record of the rebuilding of the shrine about 1,300 years ago.
Access to Kifune Shrine
Kifune Shrine is located in the deep forest between Mount Kibune and Mount Kurama. The shrine tends to be crowded during the spring and fall holiday seasons and on weekends, so it is best to use public transportation.
From Hankyu Kyoto Kawaramachi Station, transfer to a Keihan train bound for Demachiyanagi to the last stop, Demachiyanagi Station. Then transfer to the Eizan Train bound for Kurama and get off at Kibune-guchi Station. From there, take Kyoto Bus No. 33 and get off at the Kibune stop. A 5-minute walk will take you to Kifune Shrine.
Highlights of the Kifune Shrine precincts
Kifune Shrine has three Shinto shrines, and the official way to visit the shrine is to make a pilgrimage to the three shrines, which are ” Main Shrine”, ” Rear Shrine”, and ” Yui no Yashiro”, in that order.
Start your tour of the three shrines from Kibuneguchi Station on the Eizan Electric Railway.
Hotaruiwa (firefly rock)
Walk along the Kibune River from Kibune-guchi Station for a while, and you will see a large rock on the right side. This is called Hotaruiwa (firefly rock).
Fireflies are not easily seen in central Kyoto, but Kibune is still famous for its clear water and fireflies.
Umemiya-sha and Shiraishi-sha
A five-minute walk further north from Hotaruiwa is Umemiya-sha. It is a small shrine attached to Kifune Shrine. It is really small, so be careful not to miss it.
Further upstream from Umemiya-sha, you will find Shiraishi-sha.
Passing through a street lined with ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), you will see a vermilion torii (shrine gate). That is the second torii gate of Kifune Shrine. It is the entrance to the Main Shrine.
Kasuga Lantern and stone steps approach
After passing through the torii gate, you will see vermilion-lacquered kasuga lanterns and stone steps on both sides. There are 87 stone steps. This is a must-see spot to take pictures when you visit Kifune Shrine. Let’s go up the stone steps step by step.
Katsura, the sacred tree
At the top of the stairs is the sacred Katsura tree. The tree is 400 years old and 30 meters high, almost reaching to the sky. Its many overlapping branches, spreading out in all directions, resemble a dragon ascending to the heavens.
Originally, the Main Shrine was located at the present Rear Shrine site, but due to repeated flood damage, it was moved to its present location in 1055. The present one was rebuilt in 2005.
Water offered to the gods
The water is located right next to the Main Shrine. It has been gushing out of the rocks for thousands of years without ceasing. The water is somewhat divine in its flowing appearance. Of course, this water is drinkable. You can also take it home in a plastic bottle or water bottle that you brought with you.
*If you drink the water you brought home the next day, it is recommended that you boil it before drinking it.
Rear Shrine and Ryuketsu(dragon hole)
Finally, we will go to the Rear Shrine. There is a hand-watering basin in front of the Rear Shrine, so cleanse your hands here before praying.
Legend has it that there is a large hole, called a “Ryuketsu(dragon hole)”, directly below the main shrine of the Rear Shrine. However, no one is allowed to look into the hole. The Rear Shrine is considered to be a particularly powerful place in the Kifune Shrine.
Yui no Yashiro
The Yui no Yashiro, also called Nakamiya, is located between the Main Shrine and the Rear Shrine and is believed to be the god of marriage. Those who wish for a good marriage should write their feelings in a “Knot Letter” and deliver it to the Yui no Yashiro.
Fantastic illumination of Kifune Shrine
Kifune Shrine is open until 8:00 p.m., and at sunset the Kasuga lanterns are lit, creating a very magical atmosphere. During the fall foliage season, lanterns are lined up and illuminated along the Ryokan street and along the road from the Main Shrine to the Yui no Yashiro and Rear Shrine. In winter, a light-up event is held only during snowfall.
Kifune Shrine's Mizuura-mikuji, Ema, and Good Luck Charms
When visiting a shrine, it is not out of the question to receive a fortune or an omikuji (charm). Here, we introduce you to the Kibune Shrine and its amulets.
Kifune Shrine is known for its “mizuura-mikuji”. It is an unusual omikuji in that when the paper of the omikuji is floated in water, the words of the god emerge. Since the god of water is said to be able to foresee all things, this mizuura-mikuji has a reputation for being accurate.
Good Luck Charms
The most famous amulet at Kifune Shrine is the Musubi-mamori. This amulet, which brings good luck for good luck in marriage, is available in two types: a pouch type and a letter type. The bag type is embroidered with the two main characters of a love story, while the letter type is shaped like a Knot Letter of the Yui no Yashiro.
Goshuin (seal) book of Kifune Shrine
Kifune Shrine’s original Goshuin book has a wonderful design. Gold, pink, and black are available.
Also stylish are the bags for carrying Goshuin book made in collaboration with Shinzaburo Hanpu, a long-established canvas store in Kyoto. There are many temples and shrines that sell Goshuin book, but it is rare to find a Goshuin book bag. How about one as a souvenir of your visit to the temple?
Kibune is famous for its kawadoko
Walking along the flow of the Kibune River, you will find a row of small ryokan (Japanese-style inns) in the mountains. These ryokans offer kaiseki cuisine served on the floor of the Kibune River.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Kyoto is a basin area, and summers are especially hot, so in summer, Kibune is crowded with people seeking cooler weather.
How was it?
The name of the place, Kibune, is read as “Kibune,” but Kifune Shrine is read as “Kifune-jinja” . It is said that the name of Kifune Shrine is a prayer that the pure water will never become muddy.
Visiting such a Kifune Shrine, you will be filled with gratitude for the water of life, and you will feel a sense of strength.
We hope you will visit Kifune Shrine, too.
180, Kuramakibune-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Take the Keihan Line from Hankyu Kyoto Line Kyoto Kawaramachi and alight at Demachiyanagi.
Take Eizan Train and get off at Kibune-guchi Station.
Take Kyoto Bus(33) , get off at Kibune stop, and walk 5 minutes.