Ujigami Shrine is the oldest Shinto architectural structure in Japan that enshrines rabbits!

Ujigami shrine is the oldest Shinto architectural structure in Japan.
Honden, the main hall, and Haiden, are national treasures that were built in 1060 and 1215. In 1994, they were designated as cultural assets, including 17 other places in Kyoto.
The building, including the trees behind the shrine, and its scenery are designated areas as world cultural assets.

2018-09-10   Visit: Temples & Shrines, Kyoto,

torii gate


The oldest Shinto architectural structure

Byodoin is a famous place drawn on the 10-yen coin. Ujigami shrine is located near Byodoin, and is only about a 10-minute walk.
The main hall, Honden, looks very simple and is designated as a national treasure of Japan.
The building was presumably built in 1060 and has been kept much the same, without any damage from fire or war. Shrines are very susceptible to fire, and you can see a “honkaeru-mata”, the charm for protection from the fire, at the Honden.
Believe it or not, the building has been kept the same since the Heian period (794~1185).

sand for purifying

What is the sand in front of Haiden for?

You’ll see two piles of sand in front of Haiden.
This is called “kiyome-suna”, or sand for purifying and is dedicated by a monk at the Hassaku festival on September 1st. The sand will be on display for a year from that day. On New Year’s Day, or on a festival day, this sand will be spread around the grounds to purify the area. You might the similar piles of sand at other shrines and they are usually a place for a god to dwell in, but the piles of sand at Ujigami are used to purify the grounds.

water for purifying

Kiriharamizu Spring
Kiriharamizu Spring

The Kiriharamizu Spring is the last of Uji’s 7 springs!

Uji is famous for its green tea production and great springs are everywhere.
However, 6 of the famous springs in Uji are now gone, except for the Kiriharamizu Spring. It is used to provide purifying water for people who visit the shrine. Some people even drink this water, but it actually needs to be boiled first.

Sacred tree
It’s more than 330 years old!
 Iwagami san
Iwagami san

What’s the meaning of the large tree, tied up with a sacred rope and a large stone?

On the right hand side of Haiden, there is a sacred tree.
This tree is a Japanese zelkova and is about 330 years old.
This sacred tree is derived from Japanese Animism or Shintoism. The large stone next to the main hall is a sign of the shrine’s remains.
The large stone is set on the ground so that people will not step on it, because it’s a sacred area. The stone is also called “Iwagami-san”.

Rabbit fortune telling

Rabbits’s oracles and amulets

The enshrined gods in Ujigami shrine are Uji-no-Waki-no-Iratsuko-no-Mikoto, Emperor Ojin, and Emperor Nintoku. Uji-no-Waki-no-Iratsuko-no-Mikoto is a son of Emperor Ojin who became a prince, but committed suicide to give up his position to Emperor Nintoku who is a brother in law. For these reasons, Uji-no-Waki-no-Iratsuko-no-Mikoto is deeply connected to the Uji area, and the area used to be called, “Usagi-no-michi”, or rabbit road. The rabbit symbolizes the idea of, “not missing any information”, due to its large ears, and “proceeding”, because rabbits don’t step backwards. It also means “leaping”.
Why not get your fortune from a rabbit oracle to start your New Year?


Yamada, Uji, Kyoto 〒611-0021

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Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.


Address Yamada, Uji, Kyoto 〒611-0021
Close No scheduled holidays
Access 20 min walk from JR Uji station. 10 min walk from Keihan Uji station.
Phone 0774-21-4634
Website http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/isan/ujigami.html (Japanese text only)