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Kifune Shrine, the Invention of Ema and Cafés Close by

Last Tuesday my boyfriend and I went to Kifune Shirine in Kyoto.

First, we took a train from Demachiyanagi Station. Normally you can go to Kifuneguchi Station directly from there, but currently a part of the tracks can not be used. Therefore we got off at Ichihara Station and walked about 5 min to a bus installed just for that. It cost 170 yen and brought us near Kifuneguchi Station. It is possible to take another bus from there until much closer to the Shrine, but we decided to take a 30min walk instead. As the Shrine is in a mountain, the nature around is very abundant and sooo beautiful! There are many old, tall trees and a small river which creates a truly magical atmosphere.

While following the street we even say a family bathing in the river. As we got closer to our destination, restaurants started popping up at the river side. The amazing thing about them is that they were built above the river, so people can sit and eat there food enjoying a breathtaking sight. Unfortunately most of them are quite expensive though. Also, a lot of them were closed that day.

There is one really famous restaurant called ひろ文 (hirobun) offering somen (noodles running down a bamboo pipe and you have to catch them with your chopsticks) for just1500 yen directly at the river. Usually there is an incredibly long line just to enter, but that day it was relatively short (just a 30-60 min wait). I really wanted to try it because it seems like a lot of fun, but as the customers sat pretty close together we decided it is too dangerous because of corona virus.

Instead, we went to a café called "Hyoue Cafe", a about 5-10 min walk upwards from Kifune Shrine. After visiting the shrine we payed a visit to another café called 貴船倶楽部 (Kifune Club), right between Hyoue Café and Kifune Shrine. But more on the cafés later!



Kifune Shrine

Kifune Shrine, a shrine of water and matchmaking, is located in Kibune Village on Mount Kurama, Kyoto. The shrine's stairway is lined with vermilion lanterns which create a beautiful landscape especially at night. It was magical walking up there. It is unknown when exactly the shrine was built, but it is said to be at least 1300 years old as there are records that construction work was done at that time.

In the long ago past the word 貴船 (kifune) was written as 氣生根 (kifune), which has the exact same reading. These characters meant "the source of spiritual energy". Therefore it is believed that Kifune Shrine is the home of the god of rising power and luck.

There are three main halls for prayer: Honmiya, Okumiya and Yui-no-yashiro.


Enshrined in Kifune Shrine's Honmiya is Taka Okami no Kami. This kami is very old as it has been mentiond in the kojiki and nihon shoki, two of the oldest records in Japan. It is the deity who controls water, which probably is the reason why the omikuji (fortunetelling strips offered at almost every shrine) there are ones you put in water. Basically, you lay it into water and after waiting a little while, letters telling your fortune will appear. I tried this kind of omikuji for the first time and it was fun! If your luck is bad, you are supposed to tie it up at a dedicated place for it. As mine was good, I took it home. However, after it dried the letters began to disappeare again.

Also, the water flowing there is said to be sacred and to have spiritual powers, so some people take it home with them. If you want to try it, you can bring your own bottle or buy one for 300 yen.

The Origin of Ema

Kifune Shrine is also a the place where ema originated. Ema are the small wooden plates you see hanging by shrines. The front has a picture on it and people write their wishes on the back.

It is said that during the Heian Period (794 – 1185), the emperor Saga used horses for water related prayers. When praying for rain, he sacrificed a black horse, and a white one to pray for the rain to stop. Eventually, he began to use wooden plates instead which is believed to be the beginning of the ema tradition.


Next to okumiya there is a huge stone which looks kinda unspectacular, covered in moss. But there is a very interesting legend to it.

According to the legend of Japan's foundation,Tamayorihime no Mikoto (the divine mother of Emperor Jimmu) rode the yellow ship (Kifune) and sailed back up the Yodogawa River and the Kamogawa River. That way she arrived where now the Okumiya stands. This is said to be the origin of Kifune Shrine. There were little stones on the ship in order to hide it from people's eyes.

Yoi no yashiro

In Yui no yashiro the diety Iwanagahime no Mikoto is worshiped.


The Cafés

Hyoue Cafe

They only offer drinks and nuts. The interior is quite modern, but for an extra charge of 500 yen per person you can sit at their space on the river. I really recommend it, as it is a nice experience and much cheaper than of you choose one of the crazy expensive restaurants there that charge up to 10000 yen for just one meal.

There are cushion on the edge of the wooden platform, which allowes you to hang your feet into the water for refreshment. If you're lucky, you can have a stunning view of the river and small waterfall.

If you take your gaze upward, you can see countless pretty laterns which will be light up at night.

The drinks we chosen were matcha latte and yuzu tea lemonade. They were quite expensive for their small size, but tasted delicious! The lemonade had sweetened yuzu pieces on the bottom. We had a tiny cup of salted nuts on the side.

貴船倶楽部 Kifune Kurabu

I love this café's interrior. The ceiling and walls are completely wooden and there are large windows allowing to see the beautiful nature outside. They grey stone floor and metal lamps give it a modern touch.

They offer cake sets, a matcha parfait, zenzai with chestnuts and matcha with a small sweet as well as a variety of drinks.

I chose the zenzai as it was the only vegan option. Zenzai is a warm, sweet soup made of red azuki beans. It included shiratama (mochi) and a chestnut. It was quite sweet but delicious!


If you ever have the chance to, you really should check out Kifune Shrine! The area has a very traditional Japanese flair and looks beautiful during any season of the year.



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