There are three shrines among Kyoto’s World Heritage designation, of which the twinned pair of Shimogamo and Kamigamo are two. The third is Ujigami Jinja outside the city proper, which has the oldest shrine building in Japan. Its honden, where the kami are housed, dates back to around 1060.
Shimogamo is famous for its yabusame horse archery, put on in the spring. Today was Kamigamo’s turn to shine in the sunshine as it put on its autumnal Kasagake horse archery (explanation here.)
Not surprisingly given the setting and the weather, there was a large crowd, including many foreigners drawn by the English-language commentary. Star guests included Vikras Swarup, author of Q and A that was turned into the film Slumdog Millionaire. A diplomat, he’s currently working as Indian consul in Kobe.
With horses thundering along Kamigamo’s open green space in front of Kamigamo’s attractive shrine compound, it almost felt like a pleasant day at the races as the crowds basked in the warm sunshine. Watching was free, though those who wanted a closer view could pay Y500 for the privilege. Nonetheless one can’t help wondering about the economics of such events. Do they pay for themselves in terms of visitors patronising the shrine shop and making generous donations? Either way, one presumes the kami must have been pleased with the fine entertainment.