Uncover the Enchanting Mystique of Kifune Shrine: Highlights, Access, and Nearby Attractions Await!

Kifune Shrine, located in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, is the main shrine of around 500 Kifune Shrines nationwide. It’s renowned for its power in matchmaking and offers various other blessings.

Kifune Shrine is particularly popular among women for its famous water fortune-telling, known as “omikuji,” and is considered a hotspot for matchmaking. Tourists from all over the world visit to enjoy its picturesque views throughout the seasons.

During summer, it serves as a cool retreat from the city heat, and in autumn, the foliage is illuminated at night, creating a magical atmosphere. In this article, we’ll explore the highlights of Kifune Shrine, how to get there, and some recommended nearby attractions you won’t want to miss.

Exploring Kifune Shrine

Kifune Shrine, located in the northern part of Kyoto (known as the Rakuhoku area), is dedicated to the deity of water, Takao kami no kami.

The main deity worshipped at the shrine is a water god, hence the pronunciation “Kifune” rather than “Kibune,” symbolizing clarity and purity of water. Kifune Shrine, along with Kurama Temple, is a powerful spiritual site in the Rakuhoku area and is also famous as the birthplace of ema, or votive tablets.

Legend has it that emperors’ envoys visited the shrine to pray for rain or fair weather, and historical figures like Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Murasaki Shikibu, revered for their matchmaking powers, are said to have paid their respects here. Furthermore, there’s a tale from the Heian period where the poet Izumi Shikibu visited the shrine to improve her relationship with her husband, and her wish came true remarkably.

Thanks to such stories, Kifune Shrine has become a popular destination for women seeking blessings for matchmaking.

As you make your way to the precincts, you’ll follow a path along the Kifune River, surrounded by lush greenery in summer and vibrant autumn foliage, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in nature.

While Kyoto can get hot in the summer due to its basin geography, the Kifune area serves as a cool retreat, offering a comfortable climate. The sight of riverside dining platforms, known as kawadoko, along the Kifune River during summer has become a symbol of Kyoto’s summer scenery.

Despite being a bit away from downtown Kyoto, the Kifune area remains one of the popular spots attracting numerous visitors every year among Kyoto’s many tourist destinations. It takes about 40 minutes to an hour to reach the Kifune area from downtown Kyoto, but the scenery changes with each season, offering unique ways to enjoy the area.

When visiting Kyoto, taking the time to visit Kifune Shrine is definitely worth it, offering an experience that’s distinct from other attractions in the city.

Kifune Shrine (Kyoto)

  • Address: 180 Kurama Kibunecho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • Approximately 20 minutes by bus from Kyoto International Conference Center Station
    • Approximately 30 minutes on foot from Eizan Electric Railway Kurama Line Kifuneguchi Station
    • Transfer to Kyoto Bus No. 33 at Eizan Electric Railway Kifuneguchi Station, then alight at Kifune Station
  • Phone number: 075-741-2016
  • Visiting hours:
    • Main shrine opening hours: 6:00 to 20:00 (May 1st to November 30th), 6:00 to 18:00 (December 1st to April 30th)
    • Reception hours for offerings: 9:00 to 17:00 (for water fortune-telling, amulets, and temple stamps)
    • During the “Kifune Momiji Toro” (Kifune Maple Lantern) light-up period, open until 20:30
  • Fee: Free admission, temple stamps (Goshuin) available for 300 yen
  • Official website: Kifune Shrine

History of Kifune Shrine

The exact founding date of Kifune Shrine remains uncertain.

According to existing shrine records, there are mentions of shrine reconstruction during the reign of Emperor Tenmu in the 6th year of the Shuho era (677 AD), suggesting its existence dates back quite far. Legend has it that the shrine was established during the reign of Emperor Hanzei, the son of Emperor Nintoku, who ruled between 406 and 410 AD.

One tale suggests that Princess Tamayori, the mother of Emperor Jimmu, traveled upstream on a yellow boat along the Yodo River, Kamo River, and Kifune River. It’s said that she landed here and began worshiping the water deity, marking the shrine’s origins. In 796 AD, Fujiwara no Isechō reportedly had a dream where the deity of Kifune Shrine appeared, instructing him to build Kurama Temple.

In 1046 AD, the shrine building was washed away, but it was rebuilt in its current location in 1055 AD, with Buddhist statues moved to another site, designating the original location as the inner shrine. Since then, Kifune Shrine was under the jurisdiction of Kamigamo Shrine until it gained independence in 1871.

Kifune Shrine, counted among Japan’s ancient shrines, has long been revered as the guardian deity of Kyoto’s water source, esteemed by successive imperial courts for its significance.

Getting to Kifune Shrine

Access to Kifune Shrine primarily depends on your location, but there are two main ways to get there: by train and bus, or by subway and bus. One recommended method is to take a combination of train and bus. Here, we’ll provide an easy-to-understand guide starting from Kyoto Station.

While the specific directions may vary depending on your location, if you’re staying within Kyoto city, the general approach to getting to Kifune Shrine remains consistent.

How to Get There by “Train” and “Bus”

If you’re starting from Kyoto Station, here’s a simple way to get to Kifune Shrine:

  1. Take the JR Nara Line train to “Tofukuji Station” and transfer to the Kyoto Main Line. The fare is 420 yen.
  2. Once you’re on the Kyoto Main Line, ride until the last stop, “Demachiyanagi Station,” where you’ll transfer to the Eizan Electric Railway. If you’re heading to Kurama Temple, get off at “Kurama Station” (fare: 430 yen).
  3. If you’re heading to Kifune Shrine, get off at “Kifuneguchi Station” (fare: 430 yen).

The journey takes approximately 50 minutes.

One reason this route is recommended is because it passes through the area known as the “Momiji no Tunnel” between Ichihara Station and Ninose Station, allowing you to enjoy the fresh greenery or autumn foliage from the train. Since you’re already going to Kifune Shrine, why not fully enjoy the journey along the way?

The author followed this route, getting off at Kurama Station, visiting Kurama Temple, and then hiking along the trail to Kifune Shrine. The hike from Kurama Temple to Kifune Shrine takes about an hour.

Along the way, there are rest areas and even a ropeway, so even if you’re not confident in your fitness level, you can relax. While it seems like the customary order is to visit Kurama Temple first and then Kifune Shrine, the author followed this order, but it’s fine to visit either shrine first.

How to Get There by “Subway” and “Bus”

Another option is to take the subway and bus. If you choose this method, please note that it falls outside the coverage area of the Kyoto city bus one-day pass (600 yen).

First, take the Karasuma Line subway from Kyoto Station and head to “Kokusai Kaikan Station,” the terminal station (fare: 290 yen). Once you arrive at “Kokusai Kaikan Station,” board the Kyoto Bus Route 52 to “Kifuneguchi” (fare: 280 yen).

Upon arrival at Kifuneguchi, you can transfer to Route 33 and head to “Kifune” for 170 yen, or you can take a leisurely 30-minute walk to Kifune Shrine. The journey takes approximately 40 to 60 minutes.

If you want to enjoy the scenery from the Momiji no Tunnel, the first method is recommended.

Blessings of Kifune Shrine

Kifune Shrine, as mentioned earlier, enshrines water deities and is famous for three main blessings: “improving luck,” “matchmaking,” and “fulfilling various wishes.”

The name “Kifune” has been written as “Ki-fune” in the past, which is said to mean “the source of vitality,” suggesting that visiting Kifune Shrine can bring about energy and vitality. The reason why Kifune Shrine is considered a power spot lies in its name.

The shrine consists of three main sections: the main shrine, the Yui-yashiro, and the Okumiya. Following the route from the main shrine to the Yui-yashiro, and finally to the Okumiya, it is believed to bring blessings.

Let’s delve further into the detailed explanations of the deities enshrined at each shrine and their respective blessings.

The first main shrine, or Honmiya, is dedicated to the deity Takao kami no kami. This deity is often associated with a dragon god who controls the supply of water and is sometimes referred to as the mountain dragon god.

The main blessings of the Honmiya include the following:

  • Prayers for rain or clear weather
  • Safety in agriculture and water-related activities
  • Prosperity in business
  • Harmony and unity in marriage

Next, the deity of the Yui-yashiro is Iwanaga-hime no Mikoto. Iwanaga-hime no Mikoto is said to be a beautiful goddess, the sister of Konohanasakuya-hime no Mikoto, known for her stunning appearance. In addition to blessings related to love, the Yui-yashiro also offers various benefits such as success in work and fertility.

The main blessings of the Yui-yashiro include the following:

  • Matchmaking
  • Breaking off ties with undesirable connections
  • Longevity
  • Safe childbirth
  • Household safety
  • Safety at sea

Finally, the deity of the Okumiya is Takao kami no kami. There are various interpretations, but it is said that Kurao kami no kami and Tamayori-hime no Mikoto are enshrined here. Although Kurao kami no kami is known by a different name, fundamentally, it is believed to be the same deity as Takao kami no kami.

The main blessings of the Okumiya include the following:

  • Prayers for rain or clear weather
  • Safety in agriculture and water-related activities
  • Prosperity in business
  • Harmony and unity in marriage

As you can see, each shrine offers a variety of blessings.

Highlights of Kifune Shrine

Kifune Shrine offers several highlights for visitors to enjoy. While each shrine may have its own unique blessings, the experience can also vary depending on the season and time of day.

Here, we’ll introduce three highlights of Kifune Shrine for your reference when planning your visit.

Exploring the Three Shrines

At Kifune Shrine, as mentioned earlier, there are three main shrines: the Honden (Main Shrine), Nakamiya (Middle Shrine), and Okumiya (Rear Shrine).

The first shrine you’ll encounter, and a popular spot for photos, is the Honden. The Nakamiya, also known as the “matchmaking shrine,” sits upstream along the Kifune River from the Honden.

It’s believed that wishes come true when you visit the shrines in the order of the Honden, Okumiya, and Nakamiya. So, if you’re seeking love, be sure to visit all three!

At the Honden, there’s a unique water divination where you can submerge your fortune slip in water and read your fortune as it floats up. Don’t miss this chance to divine your fate!

Autumn Leaves

One of the highlights of Kifune Shrine is the vibrant autumn foliage seen during the fall season. Located in the northern part of Kyoto, the area around Kifune Shrine tends to have cooler temperatures compared to the city center, allowing the foliage to change color earlier.

Kifune Shrine, an ancient shrine along the Kifune River, typically reaches its peak foliage around early November. The shrine’s approach and the area around the main hall are adorned with brilliant hues of red and yellow, creating a stunning autumn spectacle.

You can also enjoy the autumn foliage while sitting at the rest spot called “Ryuusenkan” inside the main shrine grounds. From there, you can relax and admire the beautiful autumn colors spreading out before your eyes.

During the autumn foliage season, from early November to the end of November, there’s a limited-time opportunity to see the illuminated scenery at night, which is a must-see.

One highlight is the “Kasuga Lantern” at the first torii gate at Kibune-guchi. The pathway leading from the second torii gate to the main shrine, lined with lanterns on both sides, is also a popular spot for photographs.

The illumination starts around 5 p.m., creating a fantastic atmosphere. Visiting at night offers a different charm from the daytime, so if you have the time, it’s worth considering.

The nighttime illumination period for 2021 is from November 6th (Saturday) to November 28th (Sunday). For more details, please check the official website.

Goshuin (Temple and Shrine Seal)

At the power spot of Kifune Shrine, you can obtain various goshuin stamps associated with different blessings.

There are mainly three types of goshuin available:

  1. Regular goshuin
  2. Goshuin from the Okumiya (Inner Shrine)
  3. Limited-time goshuin available during the Blue Maple season

The regular goshuin is hand-drawn directly into your goshuincho (stamp book), not pre-printed. The fee for a goshuin is 300 yen. The shrine’s emblem consists of two symbols: “Sasunomitsudomoe” and “Futabaaoi.” You’ll notice the “Futabaaoi” stamp on the goshuin.

Next, let’s talk about the goshuin from the Okumiya, the most powerful spot at Kifune Shrine. The fee for a goshuin from the Okumiya is 300 yen.

Since the Okumiya is usually not accessible to visitors, you’ll receive the goshuin from the main shrine instead. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the main shrine to the Okumiya.

Lastly, there’s the limited-time “Blue Maple Goshuin.” The goshuin stamp tour usually runs from mid-April to September every year, but for exact dates, please check the JR Tokai website. This Blue Maple Goshuin is exclusively available to participants of the “Let’s Go to Kyoto with JR Tokai” tour organized by JR Tokai.

To get this goshuin, you need to join the JR Tokai tour, where the design of the goshuin varies each year. Simply present your “Let’s Go to Kyoto with JR Tokai” Express Card at the designated temples and pay 500 yen for the goshuin.

Exploring Nearby Attractions Alongside Kifune Shrine

The Kifune area surrounding Kifune Shrine is dotted with captivating tourist spots. Here, we’ll introduce you to some nearby attractions that you won’t want to miss when visiting Kifune Shrine.

Kurama Temple (Kurama-dera)

Kurama Temple, known as Kurama-dera in Japanese, is said to be a temple where Minamoto no Yoshitsune, still known as Ushiwakamaru, trained in his early days. Its origin dates back to the year 770 when the disciple of Ganjin, named Gantei, enshrined Bishamonten, a deity.

Kurama Temple is renowned as the birthplace of the Tengu legend, with even a Tengu statue located in front of Kurama Temple Station. In recent years, it has gained fame as a power spot in Kyoto, with visitors often seen absorbing energy while standing on the Kongodo platform in the main hall.

One of the highlights of Kurama Temple is the “Niomon Gate.” Don’t forget to take a commemorative photo here first.

After passing through the Niomon Gate, you’ll enter the sacred precincts of Mount Kurama, which is a paid area. From here, there are two routes to reach the main hall and the golden hall: one using the cable car and the other by walking.

Since it’s about a 1 km walk from the Niomon Gate at the entrance of Kurama Temple to the main hall and the golden hall, those who are not confident in their physical stamina may find it convenient to use the cable car (cost: 200 yen).

Once you climb up to the main hall and golden hall, there’s a hiking trail that leads all the way to Kibune Shrine. On a sunny day, it’s highly recommended to enjoy hiking along this trail.

Right in front of the main hall and golden hall, you’ll find a hexagonal stone pavement known as the “Rokubosei,” where the powerful “Kongodo” or “Vajra Platform” is located. Don’t miss out on visiting this significant spot at Kurama Temple.

Since there are resting spots along the way, it’s nice to take a leisurely hike while enjoying the scenery. The path isn’t too steep and is relatively easy to walk on.

he official order of visitation suggests going to Kurama Temple first and then to Kifune Shrine, but it’s fine to visit in either order. The distance from Kurama Temple to Kifune Shrine is about 1.5 kilometers, and it takes about an hour to walk. Be sure to visit Kifune Shrine along with Kurama Temple.

Kurama Temple

  • Address: 1074 Kuramahonmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 3 minutes walk from Kurama Temple Station on the Eizan Electric Railway
  • Phone Number: 075-741-2003
  • Closed: Open every day (Reihoden closed on Mondays, closed from December 12th to the end of February)
  • Hours:
    • Main Hall: 9:00 AM to 4:15 PM
    • Reihoden (Treasure Hall): 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
    • Cable Car: 8:40 AM to 4:30 PM (uphill), 8:45 AM to 4:35 PM (downhill)
  • Fees:
    • Aishan fee: 300 yen, Reihoden (Treasure Hall) fee: 200 yen
    • Cable car fare: One way: 200 yen for adults, 100 yen for elementary school students and younger
  • Official Website: Kurama Temple

Ruriko-in Temple

Ruriko-in Temple is renowned for its reflection on the glossy black lacquer tables.

Originally constructed as a villa for an entrepreneur who founded the Kyoto Electric Light Company during the Meiji era, it was later transformed into a traditional tea house-style building with a famous garden during the Taisho and early Showa periods.

After operating as a ryokan (Japanese inn) for some time, it ceased operations in 2005. Subsequently, it was acquired by the Ko-onji Temple of Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land Buddhism) in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, and became the Kyoto branch of Ko-onji Temple, known as Ruriko-in Temple.

While usually not open to the public, Ruriko-in Temple offers special admission during spring and autumn. Although the entrance fee of 2,000 yen may be higher compared to other temples, the experience is well worth it.

The captivating reflections on the black lacquer tables have gained popularity on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, attracting not only photography enthusiasts but also a broader audience.

Spread across approximately 12,000 square meters, Ruriko-in Temple boasts traditional tea house-style buildings and three Japanese gardens, creating a serene atmosphere. On the second floor of a building offering views of the lapis lazuli garden, visitors encounter glossy black lacquer tables where the famous reflection photos are taken, attracting many tourists.

Especially during the autumn foliage season, visitors can capture enchanting and beautiful photos, adding to the allure of the experience. In addition to the reflections, don’t forget to capture the beautiful scenery visible from the second floor. Be sure to take some photos!

Additionally, at Rurikoin, you can not only take photos but also experience sutra copying. Following the route, right after taking photos of the reflections, you’ll find a place where you can experience sutra copying. When entering the building, you’ll be given a sutra copying set by the receptionist at the entrance, so it’s a good idea to give it a try while you’re here.

Rurikoin

  • Address: 55 Jotanicho, Sakyoku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8414, Japan
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 5-minute walk from Eizan Electric Railway Yase-Hieizanguchi Station
    • 7-minute walk from Kyoto Bus Yase-Eki Mae Bus Stop
    • 5-minute walk from Hieizan Cable Yase Station
  • Phone: +81 75-781-4001
  • Closed: No regular holidays; closed during specific periods
  • Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Last admission at 4:30 PM)
  • Admission Fee:
    • Special viewing in spring and autumn: ¥2,000,
    • Junior and senior high school students (university students with student ID): ¥1,000,
    • Persons with disabilities (with disability identification): ¥1,000,
    • Elementary school students and younger: Free
  • Notes:
    • Normally not open to the public; special viewings only in spring and autumn
    • Tripods and selfie sticks are prohibited, so please be mindful. Taking photos with cameras placed on the copying desks is allowed.
  • Official Website: Rurikoin

The famous Kifune Shrine in Kyoto, known as a power spot, offers many attractions. It’s not just for those seeking blessings but also for nature enthusiasts. In the summer, it serves as a cool retreat with the refreshing feel of negative ions, while in the autumn, you can enjoy the enchanting scenery of autumn leaves and illuminated landscapes. Moreover, the surrounding area of Kifune Shrine, including places like Kurama Temple, offers captivating spots, so why not enjoy exploring the Kifune area away from the hustle and bustle of Kyoto city?

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