Shinto Shrine in Southern Higashiyama
Image by John S Lander / LightRocket / Getty Images

This colourful and spacious shrine is considered the guardian shrine of the Gion entertainment district. It's a bustling place that is well worth a visit while exploring Southern Higashiyama; it can easily be paired with Maruyama-kōen, the park just up the hill.

The present buildings, with the exception of the older, two-storey west gate, date from 1654. The granite torii (shrine gate) on the south side was erected in 1666 and stands 9.5m high, making it one of the tallest in Japan. The roof of the main shrine is covered with cypress shingles. Among the treasures here are a pair of carved wooden koma-inu (guardian lion-dogs) attributed to the renowned sculptor Unkei.

This shrine is particularly popular as a spot for hatsu-mōde (first shrine visit of the New Year). If you don’t mind a stampede, come here around midnight on New Year’s Eve or on any of the days following. Surviving the crush is proof that you’re blessed by the gods!