Kifune Shrine

Kifune Shrine: A Guide to Kyoto’s Enchanting Mountain Shrine

Kifune Shrine is a beautiful and historic Shinto shrine located in the mountains of Kyoto, Japan. The shrine is dedicated to the god of water and rain, and is said to have been founded over 1,600 years ago. It is a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike, and is known for its stunning natural surroundings and peaceful atmosphere.

Kifune Shrine


One of the most unique features of Kifune Shrine is its famous “waterfall staircase,” which is a series of stone steps that lead up to the main shrine building. The steps are designed to resemble a waterfall, and are lined with lanterns that are lit up at night. Visitors can also take part in a traditional ritual where they buy a wooden plaque, write a wish on it, and hang it up on a special board near the waterfall.

Kibune Kyoto

Overall, Kifune Shrine is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese history and culture. Whether you’re looking to explore the beautiful natural surroundings, take part in a traditional ritual, or simply soak up the peaceful atmosphere, this shrine is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.


Kifune Shrine

According to legend, the shrine was founded over 1,600 years ago, during the reign of Emperor Keitai, by a nobleman named Wake no Kiyomaro. The shrine was originally dedicated to the god of water, but over time, other deities were added, including the gods of agriculture, education, and matchmaking.

During the Heian period (794-1185), Kifune Shrine became a popular destination for court nobles who came to pray for good fortune and success. The shrine’s location in the mountains also made it a popular spot for ascetic practices and mountain worship.

In the 17th century, the shrine was rebuilt and expanded by the Tokugawa shogunate, and it became one of the most important shrines in the Kansai region. During the Meiji period (1868-1912), the shrine was designated as a national shrine, and it played an important role in the promotion of Shintoism as the state religion.

Today, Kifune Shrine is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Visitors come to enjoy the beautiful scenery, participate in traditional Shinto rituals, and pray for good fortune and success in their lives.

Location and Access

Kifune Shrine

It is situated in the town of Kibune, which is known for its beautiful natural scenery and traditional architecture. The shrine is located in a dense forest, surrounded by tall trees and a peaceful river.

To get to Kifune Shrine, you can take a train or bus from Kyoto Station to Kibuneguchi Station. From there, you can take a bus or taxi to the shrine. The bus ride takes about 30 minutes and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests.

If you prefer to walk, you can take the Kibune-guchi Trail, which starts at the Kibuneguchi Station and leads you through the beautiful countryside to the shrine. The trail is about 3.3 kilometers long and takes about an hour to walk.

Once you arrive at the shrine, you will need to climb a set of stairs to reach the main hall. The stairs are lined with lanterns and offer a beautiful view of the surrounding forest. The shrine is open year-round, but the best time to visit is in the summer, during the Kifune Matsuri festival, when the shrine is illuminated with thousands of lanterns and the town comes alive with music and dance.

Architecture and Design

Kifune Shrine

Kifune Shrine is a perfect example of traditional Japanese architecture and design. The main hall of the shrine is built in the Nagare-zukuri style, which is characterized by a steeply sloping roof with curved eaves that sweep upward at the corners. The roof is made of cypress bark, which is a traditional roofing material in Japan. The pillars and beams of the main hall are made of Japanese cypress, which gives the building a warm and inviting feeling.

The main hall is surrounded by a beautiful garden with a pond and several smaller buildings. The garden is designed in the Chisen-kaiyu style, which means “pond-strolling garden.” Visitors can stroll around the garden and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere while admiring the beauty of the surroundings.

One of the most impressive features of Kifune Shrine is the stone staircase that leads up to the main hall. The staircase is made of large, flat stones that are arranged in a zigzag pattern. The stones are carefully placed to create a sense of rhythm and harmony, and the overall effect is both impressive and calming.

Another interesting feature of Kifune Shrine is the use of vermillion paint on the buildings. Vermillion is a traditional color in Japan that is associated with good luck and prosperity. The use of this color on the buildings of the shrine adds to the overall sense of tradition and history that visitors experience when they visit.

Worship and Festivals

As a Shinto shrine, Kifune is dedicated to the god of water and rain and is believed to have the power to grant wishes related to these elements.

When you arrive at the shrine, you’ll first need to cleanse yourself at the temizuya, a water pavilion located near the entrance. Here, you’ll use a bamboo ladle to wash your hands and rinse your mouth before approaching the main hall to offer your prayers.

Throughout the year, Kifune Shrine hosts a variety of festivals and events that are worth checking out. One of the most popular is the Yuki Matsuri, or Snow Festival, which takes place in January or February depending on the snowfall. During this festival, the shrine is illuminated with thousands of lanterns, creating a magical winter wonderland.

Another festival to look out for is the Nagoshi no Harae, held in June. This event is a purification ritual where participants pass through a large ring made of woven grass to cleanse themselves of impurities and pray for good fortune in the coming year.

Whether you’re a believer or not, visiting Kifune Shrine during one of these festivals is a unique and unforgettable experience that you won’t want to miss.

Surrounding Attractions

After visiting Kifune Shrine, there are several other attractions in the area that are worth exploring. Here are a few suggestions:

Kurama-dera Temple: Located just a short train ride away from Kifune Shrine, Kurama-dera is a stunning temple that is nestled in the mountains. The temple is famous for its beautiful autumn foliage, and visitors can enjoy a scenic hike to reach it. Once there, you can explore the temple grounds and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

Mt. Hiei: Another nearby mountain that is worth exploring is Mt. Hiei. This mountain is home to several temples and shrines, as well as hiking trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding area. One popular attraction on Mt. Hiei is the Enryaku-ji Temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kibune: The small town of Kibune is located just a short walk from Kifune Shrine, and it is known for its traditional restaurants that are built over the river. Visitors can enjoy a delicious meal while listening to the sound of the water flowing beneath them. Kibune is also home to several hiking trails that offer beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

Ohara: Located about an hour away from Kifune Shrine by bus, Ohara is a small town that is known for its beautiful temples and gardens. One popular attraction in Ohara is the Sanzen-in Temple, which is famous for its stunning moss garden. Visitors can also explore the nearby Jakkoin Temple and the Ohara Museum of Art.

With so many beautiful attractions in the area, Kifune Shrine is the perfect starting point for a day of exploring Kyoto’s stunning natural beauty. Whether you’re interested in hiking, temple-hopping, or simply enjoying a delicious meal, there is something for everyone in this beautiful part of Japan.