Yasaka Jinja, also known as Gion Shrine, is one of the most famous Shinto shrines of Kyoto. It was founded over 1350 years ago. Yasaka Jinja is located between the popular Gion and Higashiyama districts, and is often visited by tourists walking between the two.
The shrine's main hall combines the honden (inner sanctuary) and haiden (offering hall) into a single building. In front of it is a dance stage with hundreds of lanterns that get lit in the evenings. Each lantern bears the name of a local business in return for a donation.
Yasaka Shrine is well known for its summer festival, the Gion Matsuri, which is celebrated in July. Gion Matsuri dates back over a thousand years and involves a procession with massive floats and hundreds of participants. The shrine also becomes busy during the hanami or cherry blossom season.
Yasaka Jinja can be reached by bus 100 or 206 from Kyoto Station to Gion in about 20 minutes. The closest train stations are Gion Shijo Station on the Keihan Line and Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Line. Yasaka Jinja is never closed and is free of charge.
To avoid the crowds, I went to Yasaka Jinja in the morning and watched it awakening with new life. As it was Saturday, there were a few wedding parties, and the shrine was getting ready for the wedding ceremonies. The cherry blossoms there was very beautiful and tender.