Cooling off (Mitarashi sai)


Mitarashi Shrine without the crowds, guardian of the pure water issuing out from beneath it


Mitarashi Jinja at festival time, when soaking feet in the divine water brings protection for legs from disease


Last weekend saw one of Kyoto’s most popular summer festivals, the wonderful Mitarashi Festival at Shimogamo Jinja.  It comes on the last weekend in July when the sweltering temperatures reach up to 36 degrees or so.  Visitors who walk through the Mitarashi Stream are said to have their feet and legs protected for the coming year.

Quite apart from any healing effect, the festival provides a splash and a delightfully refreshing ritual – and boy, was the water cold!  Almost painfully so.  The event has won increasing popularity in recent years, and the crowds and stalls have proliferated, with foreign tourists conspicuous.  In addition, the shrine has taken to marketing in more serious manner, with candles handed out to all participants (Western influence?), special floating ashikata prayers to float on the water, and some very smartly designed T-shirts.  All in all, I got the impression my local shrine is using increasingly sophisticated marketing and promotion methods.

(The Mitarashi subshrine, dedicated to water, was originally at the confluence of the Kamogawa and Takanogawa, but in 1470 it burnt down in the Bunmei Insurrectioin and was rebuilt on its present site from 1592-6.)


For a previous account of this life-affirming summer festival, please click here.

The Mitarashi Stream flows through the shrine precincts and into the Tadasu no mori woods.


At festival time people holding their footwear in plastic bags make their way through the water to plant candles in rows before the shrine


To the left of the shrine are stalls providing cupfuls of the divine water, amulets for good health, and some special Shimogamo T-shirts with aoi leaves and red arrow


The spiritual core of the festival - an amulet to protect one's legs from disease for the coming year


As evening falls, the candle-lit river wading grows more attractive

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