The Guardian Shrine of Byodo-in Temple
Ujigami-jinja is a Shinto shrine located in Uji City, in the south of Kyoto. The UNESCO World Heritage listed the spiritual site among the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. It is renowned for the authenticity of its pavilions and its peaceful atmosphere.
Studies of the honden main pavilion’s architectural details suggest that Ujigami-jinja shrine dates back to the end of the Heian period (794 - 1192) and is therefore one of the oldest Shinto constructions preserved in Japan. The main hall honden is of nagare-zukuri style and composed of 3 different structures that were later covered by the same encompassing roof. It is dedicated to 3 great figures of the Shinto religion and the Japanese imperial family:
- Prince Uji no Wakiiratsuko;
- His father Emperor Ojin; and,
- His older brother Emperor Nintoku.
According to the ancient scriptures of the Nihon Shoki, The Chronicles of Japan, Prince Uji no Wakiiratsuko committed suicide after a long fight for the throne against his brother Nintoku.
The hall of worship haiden was built later, during the Kamakura period (1192 - 1333) and offers a different architectural style, but nonetheless authentic.
Formerly associated with Uji-jinja shrine
Until 1868, Ujigami-jinja was part of Uji shrine, which is located only a few meters away. As soon as their founding, the two shrines were designated as the protectors of Byodo-in temple, which is located just in front of them, across the Uji-gawa river. Therefore, they were named in regards to their location with Byodo-in:
- Ujigami-jinja was named the "upper shrine" (Rikyu-Kami); and,
- Uji-jinja was the "lower shrine" (Rikyu-Shimo).
It is therefore recommended to visit both shrines and the Phoenix temple for a comprehensive historical sightseeing.
Sacred natural source of the city
The Shinto precincts moreover shelters a natural source named Kirihara no mizu. Renowned among the locals, it is one of Uji City’s 7 pure water sources, renowned for their purity and unique taste. The water is used to serve matcha during the tea ceremony.
Nestled at the edge of the forest, on the heights of the city, Ujigami-jinja is a peaceful visit. Its raw wood structures, of a humble appearance, are testimony of the refined and sophisticated architectural style of the first Japanese shrines. For those who would like to continue exploring the surroundings, we recommend reaching the observatory of Daikichiyama that offers an elevated point of view over the city and the river.