●HOME > Featured article: Vol.02
Featured article
Vol.02:Tomaro-kun visits several “power spots.”

⇒1.「Shimogamo Shrine」
⇒2.「Fushimi Inari Shrine」
⇒3.「Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine」
⇒4.「Shinsen-en Garden」

Have you heard about power spots?
A power spot is said to be a place that acts as a nerve cell of the Earth. It is said to occur at the intersection of two paths of energy. In these places, good energy is released from the earth and is said to have various beneficial effects for humans.
Kyoto, a city with over 1200 years of history, was not just chosen as a good place to build a city for political reasons, but also because the area was said to have a very good energy flow throughout (The four gods said to rule over the directions, Black Tortoise to the north, Azure Dragon to the east, Vermilion Bird to the south, and White Tiger to the west are also said to protect the Kyoto area).
Kyoto is also known as a city of prayer, and many different faiths were developed here. Eventually, through the power of these faiths, power spots were said to have formed. Because shrines were built at the site of many of these power spots, a large amount of Kyoto's power spots are stones, springs, or trees located on shrine grounds.
Tomaro-kun is working hard every day studying in Kyoto to become a respected god of good fortune.
Today, Tomaro-kun will be traveling to various power spots around Kyoto and requesting to learn from his seniors, the gods that inhabit those areas.
It seems like Tomaro-kun is ready, so let's go!

◆A tree for finding love?  [Shimogamo Shrine]

Known formally as Kamo-Mioya shrine, Shimogamo shrine is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Kyoto along with Kamigamo shrine. The shrine's history dates back to before year 0 of the western calendar. Tamayorihime-no-mikoto and Kamotaketsune-no-mikoto are both enshrined at Shimogamo shrine. Tadasu-no-mori, a forest that lines the approach path to the shrine is said to have healing powers. Due to the pleasant smells of the forest and calming sounds of the nearby Kamogawa River, many people come here for a walk, a jog, or simply meditation.

Shimogamo shrine is also known to house the god of marriage, so wedding ceremonies often happen here. Tomaro-kun is visiting in hopes that once he becomes a god of good fortune, he will have a chance to marry a divine goddess. After all, it's true that even while concentrating hard on studies, it is never a mistake to plan for the future. Tomaro-kun has come up to a small shrine right in front of the gate known as Aioi shrine. This shrine has been revered as a shrine to marriage since ancient times. One of the three legendary gods who created the heavens and Earth, Kamumusubi-no-kami is enshrined here. The power of Kamimusubi-no-kami is so great that two trees located inside the shrine joined together in growth to become one single tree. This tree is known as the renri-no-sakaki, and is considered to be Aioi Shrine's sacred tree. It has become an object of worship for visitors to the shrine. Tomaro-kun is walking around the tree three times clockwise with a votive tablet in his hands. The tradition is for men to walk around the tree clockwise, women to walk counter-clockwise. After walking around the tree, Tomaro-kun hangs the votive tablet, and then bows twice, claps twice, prays for a good fate in love, and then bows one final time.

◆A prosperous business is not built in a day.   [Fushimi Inari Shrine]

Tomaro-kun is now visiting Fushimi-Inari Shrine, famous for providing prosperity for businesses. Since Tomaro-kun is studying to become a respected god of good fortune at a Ryokan("Yado"), he wants to pray for that Ryokan("Yado")'s business success.
Fushimi-Inari grand shrine is over 1300 years old, and is considered to be the head shrine of all 30,000 Inari shrines across Japan. The main shrine is located at the base of Inari Mountain, which as a whole is considered sacred Shinto grounds, and is central to the Inari folk religion. The chief god of agriculture, Ukanomitama-no-okami, is one of five gods enshrined here.

The shrine is also famous for its enshrined fox spirits. The shrine's history is very long, and writings about visiting Fushimi-Inari date back to the Heian period. On the shrine grounds of Inari Mountain, there are three rear shrines for worship behind the main shrine. Visitors visit the upper shrine, middle shrine, and lower shrine located on three separate ridges of the mountain to pray for abundant crops or prosperity in business. On the vast expanse of the shrine complex, there are several ways to ensure that your wishes will come true: test your wish against the "Omokaru-ishi," a stone which predicts the outcome of your wish by its weight; pass under the risen roots of the "Neagari-no-matsu" (also "Hizamatsu-san"), and any lower-body pain is said to be healed; or visit the "Kodama pond" which is said to find runaways. These are just a few of the many power spots located on the shrine grounds at Fushimi-Inari
Tomaro-kun is off to walk the mountain paths and pray for the prosperous future of his Ryokan("Yado").
To pray for business prosperity, it is recommended to go straight to the shrine, pray, and then immediately return to the business for which you are praying.


◆Tomaro-kun is working hard at his studies.   [Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine]

When talking about scholarship and studies, most Japanese think of Sugawara Michizane. Though he was a real person, he was later deified as Tenjin-sama, the god of studies. The most famous shrine that enshrines Michizane is probably Kitano-Tenmangu in northern Kyoto, but he is also enshrined all over the country in many shrines. Of the top 25 Tenmangu shrines with the deepest connection to Michizane (known as kanko-seiseki-nijugo-hai), five of these are located in Kyoto. One of these, Nishiki Tenman-gu is located in one of the most unlikely of places. The shrine is located at the east end of what is known by locals and tourists alike as Kyoto's kitchen, Nishiki market street.

As the second Tenmangu shrine on the list, many students and learners visit this shrine. Many votive tablets are hung with wishes for a passing score or advancement in studies. The votive tablets at Nishiki-Tenmangu, round wooden balls known as Taigan-ume, are quite different from votive tablets that you can find at other shrines. To make a wish, write it on a thin slip of paper, stuff it into the wooden ball, and cover up the hole. The ball itself is small and has the word taigan-ume carved in Japanese on the side. Once you have written your wish, and made your offering, your wish will come true. You can either hang this from the tree to the side of the shrine, or keep it with you as a charm. Despite the shrine's small size and location in the middle of town, there are many other interesting things to do while worshipping during your shrine visit to Nishiki Tenman-gu. Among these are Nishiki-no-mizu spring water which you can drink, Karakuri-kuji fortunes, etc…
Tomaro-kun is visiting the shrine to pray to Michizane for help with his studies to become a god of good fortune. I wonder what advice Tomaro-kun was given!

◆Tomaro-kun visits a dragon god from India.   [Shinsen-en Garden]

Just south of Nijo Castle near central Kyoto lies Shinsen-en of the Toji Shingon sect of Buddhism. Shinsen-en is a gorgeous garden with history going back to the Heian period of Japanese history. Originally the garden was built as a private garden for the enjoyment of the Emperor and his family and was 500 meters by 240 meters large. Later on during the Heian period, a Buddhist teacher by the name of Kukai brought the garden under the care of Toji, which has managed the garden until this day.

The circumstances which led to Kukai taking the garden under the care of the Shingon sect date back to a drought that affected all of Japan. During the drought, Kukai and another priest by the name of Shupin were called to pray for rain. Kukai's prayer for rain brought a dragon goddess from far away India to make her new home in the pond located on the grounds of Shinsen-en, bringing rain to the area. To this day, Shinsen-en bustles with people who visit in hopes that the dragon goddess will grant their wishes. Upon entering the garden grounds, many feel a calming sensation, proving that this location truly is full of power, a true power spot. In order to receive the blessings of the goddess, have one wish in mind as you cross over the scarlet, arch shaped bridge and visit the shrine of the goddess. If you follow these steps, your wishes will be fulfilled. Oh! Tomaro-kun is up on the side of the arch. Be careful Tomaro-kun!

Because various shrines have been built at or around these principal power spots in Kyoto, it has become known as a land of spiritual faith. Furthermore, the objects of worship have been influenced by the times and changed from generation to generation. As a result, temples and shrines offer an increasing amount of blessings for road safety, familial safety, finding love, and business profit. The Japanese people have a long and rich history of following the gods and Buddha in hopes that their prayers and actions are noticed and blessings will come.

<Shinto shrine worship etiquette>
①Torii-gate~ Every Shinto shrine has a torii-gate. Before passing through the outermost torii-gate it is customary to bow.
②Shrine Approach~ The center of the road approaching a shrine is considered to be a path for the gods.
When walking this path, it is considered proper manners to walk along either side of the road, leaving the center open.
③Purifying Fountain
It is customary to cleanse your mouth and hands before worshipping at a shrine.
Pick up the ladle with your right hand and pour water over your left hand. Next, switch the ladle to your left hand and pour water on your right hand. Change back to your right hand, cup water into your left hand, and gargle with this water. Once you finish gargling, spit the water back into your left hand. Turn the ladle up so that the remaining water runs down the handle and return it to its original position.
④Etiquette for worshipping
 at the shrine~
For the most part, the standard prayer follows the pattern of two bows, two loud claps, a silent prayer, then one final bow. However, there are some shrines like Izumo Shrine that call for four claps instead of two. There are several other ways of clapping, such as: Yahirate, Raishu, and Shinobite; but during a typical shrine visit these are not used. If you are unsure, it is okay to ask a priest or worker at the shrine.
④-1 Offertory –
Offertories are a monetary offering to express thanks and respect to the gods. It is best to consider this as a customary expression of gratitude.
This is not money offered when making a request to the gods, so the amount to give is not set.
④-2 Bells –
There are shrines with no bells, but you will find a bell at the center of the main alter of many shrines. The bell is traditionally viewed as a talisman to ward off evil spirits.

Why two bows, two claps, and a final bow?

•The bow is a typical greeting, in this case to the gods.
•The clapping is used to draw the attention of the gods.
After two deep bows, clap twice with your hands directly in front of your chest. After your final clap, place your hands together in a praying position and say a silent prayer. Once you have finished praying, bow deeply one last time.

<Buddhist temple worship etiquette>

Since particular details vary among sects of Buddhism, this serves as merely general guidelines.

①The front gate~ At the front gate of the temple, face towards the main temple building,
place your hands silently together in prayer, and bow once.
②Purifying Fountain
It is also customary to cleanse your mouth and hands before worshipping at a temple.
The process is the same as at shrines.
③Votive Candle/Incense ~ For temples where candles and incense sticks are provided, follow the below instructions
to use these items for prayer (Many temples do not provide these, or conduct this practice as a preventative measure for fires or theft).
③ - 1
First, pay the fixed price for the item you wish to purchase (Some temples use this for annual payments).
③ - 2
Light the candle or incense and place it in the stand. For candles, one stick is customary, but for incense, some sects dictate that three sticks are necessary. If nothing is written regarding the number, one should suffice.
④Etiquette for worshiping in the main temple~ Give your offering (small coins are acceptable), and if there is a gong, ring it. With proper stance, silently press your hands together in prayer, and bow once. If you have brought a Buddhist rosary, hold it in your hands while bowing. Unlike the Shinto shrines, be careful
not to clap in a Buddhist temple. For the most part, it is acceptable to silently worship
without reciting any chants or prayers. However, there are temples which will display a
chant (the mantra, name, and theme for a Bodhisattva). If you understand the chant, or
it is displayed in English characters, it is customary to recite this. If you would like to know
the temple's chant, but it is not displayed or available in English, it is acceptable to ask a
monk of the shrine.
Finally, say a light prayer before leaving the temple complex.

More Information on the Temples and Shrines at the Power Spots that Tomaro-kun visited this time:

<Shimogamo Shrine>

●Address:: 59 Izumikawa-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi 606-0807
●TEL:075-781-0010 ●FAX:075-781-4722
●Access from Kyoto Station
[Subway Karasuma line]  Take the subway north to Kitaoji Station, transfer to the number 1 or 205 bus to Shimogamo-Jinja Mae or  Tadasunomori Mae bus stop (about 25 minutes)
[City Bus] Take the number 4 or 205 bus to Shimogamo-Jinja Mae or Tadasunomori Mae (about 35 minutes)

<Fushimi-Inari Grand Shrine>

●Address:Yabunouchi-cho, Fukakusa, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi 612-0882
●TEL:075-641-7331 ●FAX:075-642-2153
●Access from Kyoto Station
[JR Train] Take the JR Nara line to Inari station
[City Bus] Take the South 5 line bound for Takeda Sta. to Inari Taisha-mae

<Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine>

●住所:537 Nakano-cho, Shinkyogoku-dori, Shijo-Agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-Shi 604-8042
●Access from Kyoto Station
[Subway Karasuma Line] Ride north to Shijo station, Transfer to the Hankyu line Karasuma Station and travel one station to Kawaramachi Station (about 15 minutes)
[City Bus] Take either the number 5, 17, or 205 bus to the Shijo-Kawaramachi bus stop (about 15 minutes)

<Shinsen-en Garden>

●Address:166 Monzen-cho, Oike-dori Shinsen-en Higashi-iri, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu 604-8306
●TEL:075-821-1466 ●FAX:075-821-1461
●Access from Kyoto Station
10 minute walk from Nijo station on the JR San'in line
[Subway Karasuma Line] Take subway north from Kyoto Station to Karasuma Oike Station.From there, transfer to the Tozai line to Nijo-jo Mae Station. From here it is a 2 minute walk
[City Bus] Take the number 9 bus to the Horikawa-Oike stop (about 15 minutes)