Heian Shrine and Gardens

On the 1,110th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto, which was once known as Heian, a shrine was built to mark the occasion. Heian Shrine is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last monarchs who reigned from the city—Emperor Kammu (737–806) and Emperor Komei (1831–1867), respectively. It includes buildings modeled after the ancient Imperial Palace and gardens designated a National Site of Scenic Beauty. 

Built in 1895, Heian Shrine is a 5:8 scale replica of the State Hall of the Imperial Palace. This was the administrative part of the city and where the emperor presided over state affairs. Its many buildings, which include a main gate and hall of worship, are arranged around the wide, open courtyard. Every year on October 22, the Jidai Matsuri takes place here, which is one of Kyoto’s biggest festivals. The main event is a parade of costumes from different periods of Japanese history.

Behind the main buildings of the shrine, is a beautiful landscaped garden, filled with ponds and weeping cherry trees. Spanning about 8 acres, it’s one of the city’s biggest. Most of it was designed by Ogawa Jihei VII in a stroll-like style, which was popular in the Edo period. It consists of four distinct gardens, namely the South Garden, West Garden, Middle Garden, and East Garden. Each is influenced by a different time in history—the Heian, Kamakura, Momoyama, and Edo periods. 

While visiting Heian Shrine is free, there is an admission fee of ¥600 (about US$4) to enter the gardens. It’s well worth it, though, since they can be enjoyed in any season. Each of the four boasts its own special features and, thanks to the many ponds, there’s plenty of Rorschach-like reflections to delight in. You can also enjoy drinks and snacks at the small café located in the Middle Garden.

A giant torii, towering 24 meters above the road, marks the approach to Heian Shrine. The vermillion gate sits between the Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art (KYOCERA) and the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (MoMAK). From inside the latter, you can get a really nice close-up view of the gate while enjoying some Japanese and Western art. The Kyoto City Zoo is also nearby, so it’s easy to make an entire day out of your visit.

Visit Heian Shrine and Gardens

Heian Shrine and its gardens are within walking distance of Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Subway Line (10 min) and Jingu-Marutamachi Station on the Keihan Line (15 min). You can also access the shrine via bus from Kyoto Station (35 min). Get off at the Okazaki Koen Bijutsukan/Heian Jingu-mae stop and walk for about 8 min.

Hours: 06:00~17:00

Admission to Shrine: Free

Admission to Garden: ¥600


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