Hirano Jinja: A Blossoming Cherry Blossom Sanctuary in Kyoto

Kyoto is a city renowned for its rich cultural heritage and beautiful shrines and temples. One such shrine that deserves a visit is the Hirano Jinja, located in the northwest part of the city. Hirano Jinja’s draw is its beautiful gardens, which are especially stunning in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

The History of Hirano Jinja

Hirano Jinja was founded in the 8th century, during the Heian period – the golden age of Japanese culture. The shrine honours the god of agriculture, Inari, and it was originally located in a different part of the city. However, Emperor Shirakawa moved the shrine to its current location in the 11th century, a devout worshipper of the shrine.

The Grounds

The grounds of Hirano Jinja include several buildings and structures, as well as famous gardens. The main entrance to the shrine is through the torii gate, painted in the traditional vermillion colour and leads to the haiden, or worship hall.

Behind the worship hall is the honden, or the main sanctuary of the shrine. The god Inari is enshrined here and is considered the most sacred place on the grounds. Visitors may not enter the honden, but they can offer their prayers and make donations at the worship hall.

The Famous Gardens

The gardens of Hirano Jinja are the main attraction of the shrine, and they are especially beautiful in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The trees and blossoms can cover the entire area, even obscuring the temple itself in a sea of white and shades of pink. The flowers only bloom for about 2 weeks per year, so timing a visit to Kyoto can be very difficult. However, if you are able to come (and brave the increase in hotel prices), it is worth it.

However, cherry blossoms are not the only draw of these gardens. There are other early and mid-spring flowering plants here, such as species of rape blossoms and tulips. You can find them co-existing in the garden, which apart from the paths has been left in a more of a wild-garden state.

Tips for Visiting Hirano Jinja

If you are planning a visit to Hirano Jinja, these few tips can help you make the most of your experience. Firstly, it is best to visit the shrine early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as it can become crowded during the day. You can also get some amazing lighting at these times.

Secondly, it is important to remember that Hirano Jinja is a religious site and visitors should be respectful of the shrine and its surroundings. This means removing your shoes before entering the worship hall and refraining from taking photos inside the honden.

To get there from Kyoto station, there are a couple of buses you can take. They are bus numbers 50, 205, 206, or 6. Each one will cost you ¥230. Get off at the Kinugasako mae bus stop and then walk a couple of minutes to the entrance. You can also take the 高雄京北線 line to the Kitano Hakubaicho bus stop. This will include a longer walk than the other lines. All of the routes (including the walk) will take approximately 40 minutes to get to the temple.

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