One of Kyoto's oldest shrines, Kamigamo Jinja is a terrific example of rich Heian architecture. With charming bridges, sand sculptures, and vermilion gateways, Kamigamo Jinja was built in the 8th century by the Kamo family and has always been associated with Kamo Wakeikazuchi, a god of thunder, rain, and fertility. Now the shrine is famous for its annual horse race—held on May 5—and its hollyhock festival, which started in the 6th century when people thought that the
Kamigamo deities were angry at being neglected. Held on May 15, it includes 500 people in Heian period costumes processing on horseback or in ox-drawn carriages. On June 30, a purification ritual takes place in which throngs of people cast paper effigies into the river beneath the flickering glare of charcoal braziers. The canal street that leads up to the shrine has many machiya (elongated town houses), some of which are more than 400 years old. To get to the shrine, take Bus 9 north Kamigamojinja-mae or Kamigamo Misono-bashi. Or take the subway north to Kitayama Station, from which the shrine is 20 minutes on foot northwest.