Stone stairs lead up through the vermilion-and-white gate of Kyoto's central shrine, which plays an essential role in the city's fiscal good fortune. In addition to the good-luck charms people flock here to buy, you will see the names of the city's biggest stores and companies marking the lanterns hanging from the main hall's eaves, each of the corporate sponsors seeking financial favor as well. The shrine, just off Higashi-oji-dori, was built in the 7th century above an underground lake to ensure that the god who resided in the east—the blue water dragon—received the fresh water needed to ensure healthy Earth energy. The original enshrined Shinto deity, Susano-no-mikoto, later came to be associated with the Buddhist spirit Gozu Ten-no, a protector against pestilence and the god of prosperity. Also known as the Gion Shrine, Yasaka hosts the Gion Festival, a monthlong event that takes place in July. The festival started in 869 as a religious ritual to rid the city of a terrible plague that originated in Kyoto and swiftly spread all over Japan. The grounds of Yasaka Shrine are filled with revelers during cherry-blossom season, usually in early April.