Heian Shrine

Heian Shrine

Travel Guide


Built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Heian Kyo (the former name of Kyoto), and dedicated to the Emperors Kammu and Komei, the first and last Emperors to rule Kyoto, the buildings in Heian Shrine are a partial replica of the Imperial Palace of the Heian Period (794-1185). In comparison to other historical venues in and around Kyoto, the Heian Shrine is relatively modern. The shrine is popular not only as a tourist spot but also as a religious and historical center. It is notable for its largest torii (sacred gate) in Japan and beautiful gardens.

The Heian Shrine is a major Shinto shrine in Kyoto. The Shrine is ranked as a Beppyou Jinja (the top rank for shrines) by the Association of Shinto Shrines. It is listed as an important cultural property of Japan.

The Shrine is also used for traditional Japanese weddings as well as concerts. It is rare for a modern concert to be held at a historic site like the shrine, but merging modern and old culture in Kyoto has become a trend.


In 1895, a partial reproduction of the Heian Palace from Heiankyo (the former name of Kyoto) was planned for construction for the 1100th anniversary of the establishment of Heiankyo. The Industrial exposition fair (an exhibition of development of Japanese and foreign cultures) was held in Kyoto that year, where the replica was to be the main monument. However, failure to buy enough land where the Heian Palace used to stand, the building was built in Okazaki at 5/8 scale of the original.

After the Exhibition ended, the building was kept as a shrine in memory of the 50th Emperor, Emperor Kanmu, who was the Emperor when Heiankyo became the capital. In 1940, Emperor Komei was added to the list of dedication. On the occasion of the deification of Emperor Komei in 1940, additional edifices such as the Main Sanctuary, Shinto ritual hall, Inner Sanctuary, Flank Hall, Tablet Hall, Outer and Inner Platforms, Saikan, and Administration Building were built and major repairs made to the older structures.

Kyoto was shocked and depressed after the capital was moved to Tokyo. Later, the citizens came together to build a new city after World War II. The construction of Heian Shrine was a symbol of revival for the city. The revival consisted of the new Kyoto in education, culture, industry, and daily life, where at the same time the "good old" Kyoto was maintained.

In 1976, the Shrine was set on fire; and nine of the buildings, including the honden, or main hall, burned down. Three years later, the burned buildings were reconstructed with money collected from donations.


The first thing that strikes you about Heian Shrine is the vast amount of space. It is very spacious with a wide open courtyard at the center. The colors of the buildings also stand out in orange, green and white.

Many of the structures of Heian Shrine, including the Daigoku-den (Outer Oratory), Oten-mon (Divine Gate), Soryu-ro (Blue Dragon tower), Byakko-ro (White Tiger tower), Platform, and Ryubi-dan, were built in 1895 in the style of the Chodo-in (which was Emperor’s palace in the former eras), the main administration building of the Heian Capital. Though only about two-thirds of the original in scale, they recapture the glory of olden times.

The Daigoku-den is the largest building and is the main hall of the shrine. Daigoku-den was the Great Hall of State at the original Kyoto Imperial Palace (Daidairi). The original Daigoku-den Palace was destroyed by fire in 1177 and never rebuilt, but in the late 1800s Emperor Komei (1831 to 1867) constructed this 2/3 scale reproduction of Daigoku-den, to honor the 50th imperial ruler of Japan (Kanmu), and the 1,100th anniversary since Kyoto was established as Japan's capital. The shrine was reconstructed to its present state in 1976.

The Soryu-ro, also known as the Blue Dragon tower is the East Tower beside Daigoku-en. It was built in 1894 and is two stories high. It is a classic example of the Chinese style of architecture with white walls, vermillion lacquered pillars and wood trim and

The Shrine’s torii is one of the largest in Japan. Built in 1929, it is 24.2 meters high; the top rail is 33.9 meters long. A giant torii gate marks the approach to the shrine, around which there are a couple of museums. The actual shrine grounds themselves are very spacious, with a wide open court at the center. The shrine's main buildings are a partial replica of the original Imperial Palace from the Heian Period, built on a somewhat smaller scale than the original.


The jewel of the shrine is the Shin-en Garden which covers 33,000 square meters. The garden was built to represent the style of garden that was popular during the Heian period. The Shin-en Garden is divided into four: the East, West, South and Middle Gardens. These traditional gardens are filled with ponds, a variety of plants, old-style structures and Chinese inspired bridge, and are worth the additional fee to walk through them. The Minami Shin-en Garden, or "south garden," is famous for its many weeping cherry-blossom trees (shidarezakura), making the garden one of the best cherry blossom spots in Kyoto. The nighttime cherry-blossom viewing at Heian Shrine is spectacular, and during the sakura and summer seasons the shrine and Minami Shin-en Gardens are opened for evening hanami and concerts.

During the Heian Period from 794 to 1190, hanami was popular with the aristocratic class, artists, poets, and singers imperial households. People would gather and under the blossoms for gatherings or concerts. One of the first recorded hanami flower-viewing festivals in Kyoto took place at the Shin-en Garden in 812.

The water used in the ponds comes from the Lake Biwa Canal. Species otherwise rare in Japan such as Acheilognathus cyanostigma, the Yellow pond turtle and the Japanese pond turtle live around the ponds. Visitors may feed the fish and turtles with food sold around the ponds.

Heian Shrine - Outen-mon Heian Shrine - Byakko-ro Heian Shrine - Taihei-kaku of Shin-en Garden
Outen-mon Byakko-ro Taihei-kaku of Shin-en Garden

Travel Advice

The origin of Heian Capital

Emperor Kammu was born in 737 as the crown prince of Emperor Konin and ascended to the throne in 781 as the 50th Emperor of Japan. Realizing that the capital of Heijo was small in scale and beneath the dignity of our country, Emperor Kammu transfered the capital to Nagaoka in the province of Yamashiro and, further picking the adjoining districts of Kadono and Atago in 793 as the best possible site for the capital, began to construct a new palace. In the following year, the seat of government was moved to the new capital called the Heian Capital.

In 796, the Emperor held an audience for the first time at the Daigoku-den Palace at which dignitaries celebrated the New Year. This marked the beginning of Kyoto.

During his 25 year reign, Emperor Kammu amended the laws and ordinances, gave relief to the destitute, encouraged learning, innovated the domestic administration, and opened the doors to foreign trade, thereby contributing to the development of the country. For more than 1,000 years, until the Meiji Restoration, Kyoto prospered as the capital of Japan.

The 50th ruler passed away in 806 and was entombed in the Kashiwara Mausoleum in Momoyama, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto.

Around the Shrine

Adjacent to the Shrine is Okazaki Park, where visitors can learn about culture. The Shrine is surrounded by the Kyoto Public Library, Kyoto Museum of Modern Arts, Kyoto Kaikan, and the Kyoto Zoo.

Emperor Komei

Emperor Komei was born in 1831 as the crown prince of Emperor Ninko and acceded to the throne in 1847 as the 121st ruler of Japan.  Though brief, his sovereignty lasting for 21 years spelled the quickening period of the modern Japan, an era marking the closing of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Well cognizant of the then turbulent times in Japan the gifted ruler Emperor Komei laid the firm foundation of the Meiji Restoration. The emperor passed away at the young age of 36, ending his life characterized by his intense patriotic concern for the welfare and destiny of the country.


Events in 2019
Jidai Matsuri One of the three most important festivals of Kyoto. A parade of 2,000 people attired in costumes from every period of Kyoto history winds its way on the Kyoto street, carrying the mikoshi (portable shrines) of Emperors Kammu and Komei. Oct 26(Sat)



- Wedding service is provided. Please ask staff for details.



Address Nishi Ten’no-cho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Phone 075-761-0221
Admission Free Tickets required for facilities
Hours 06:00 to 18:00  Mar 15 to Sep 30
06:00 to 17:30  Oct 1 to 31
06:00 to 18:30  Dec 31 to Jan 5
06:00 to 17:00  Nov 1 to Feb 14
06:00 to 17:30  Feb 15 to the last date of Feb
06:00 to 17:30  Mar 1 to 14
Closed Open 7 Days a Week
Duration 30 minutes
Getting There By Train
10 minute walk from Higashiyama Station on subway Tozai Line.
25 minutes ride by City Bus No.5 or 100 from JR Kyoto Station or Kawara-cho Station on Hankyu Railway Kyoto Honsen to Kyoto-kaikan/Art Museum-mae Station, then walk approximately 1 minute.
15 minute walk from Sanjo or Jingu Maruta Station on Keihan Electric Railway Oto Line.

By Car
Take Meishin Expressway to Kyoto-higashi exit and take Sanjo-dori. It is approximately 5 kilometers 20 minutes from exit.
Parking Please use the paid parking lot at basement of Municipal Okazaki Park

Attractions in Japan