IKIMASHO!

Getting cute at Kawai-jinja, Kyoto / 河合神社で美を願う

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Japanese ema plaques displayed at Kawai-jinja in Kyoto. Can you spot ours?

The Kyoto shrine that’s attractive in more ways than one


While in Kyoto, we visited Kawai-jinja, a shrine famous for having its own unique ema (絵馬) – small wooden plaques on which one writes a prayer or wish – in the shape of hand mirrors. The idea is that you personalize these plaques with colored pencils or crayons to make a face, focusing on the areas in particular that you’d like to improve. It’s said that doing so will make you more attractive 🙂

I got a little carried away with color, and so I hope my wish literally doesn’t come true, lest I be blessed with green and blue hair. But hopefully my little colourful ema will simply be interpreted as wanting to remain youthful and creative.


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Kawai-jinja is located within the grounds of a larger shrine, Shimogamo-jinja. To get to both you have to walk down a quiet, suburban lane framed by a large torii gate.

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Despite it being late December, the fall colours still shone through.

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The impressive Shimogamo-jinja

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A monk praying inside the shrine

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A large ema depicting 2019: the year of the boar

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Monks’ shoes lined up neatly outside the temple

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Kawai-jinja has a nice old vibe, with years of moss-growth covering some of the roofs

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A group of women decorating their ema

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And autumnal leaves decorating the building outside

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Tadasu-no-mori Forest that leads between the two shrines


Our finished ema


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2 comments

  1. Super interesting as always! What other hidden gems would you recommend in Kyoto? I will be visiting it for the third time in March and I am on the search for hidden gems 🙂

  2. I’m not overly familiar with Kyoto as I live in Tokyo. But things we really enjoyed (that you may not know) were:
    – sunrise at Yasaka Pagoda, getting there while still in the dark and being the only ones there
    – Temari sushi at Gion Mametora
    – Insanely good matcha kakigori at Pass The Baton
    – Clothes shopping at three star! Really cheap but good thrift store.

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