Kyoto’s Jishu Shrine

Jishu Jinja (shrine) lies on the grounds of Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple established during the 8th century and dedicated to the goddess Kannon (goddess of mercy, and a protector of Kyoto).

Jishu Jinja Torii

Sites like Jishu Jinja are rare, because Shintō shrines are rarely found on the grounds of Buddhist temples any more.

Prior to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Shintō shrines and Buddhist temples often coexisted, often sharing precincts (grounds) and buildings. Shintō kami were often seen as manifestations of various Buddhas (or forms of the Buddha, depending on the sect). 

In 1868, the Meiji government issued an edict ordering shinbutsu bunri – the separation of indigenous Shintō from Buddhism – which was seen as an “imported” faith. Buddhist elements and worship halls were removed from Shintō shrines, and vice versa, officially separating the two religions, in part to reduce the power and wealth of Buddhism in Japan.

The policy succeeded in physically separating shrines from temples, but not in reducing the influence of either religion on Japanese culture. Japanese worshippers often practice both Shintō and Buddhism. A Buddhist priest I met on Kōyasan explained it best: “Shintō celebrates birth and life, and achievement, so young Japanese people and their parents practice Shintō to celebrate these important things. Buddhism looks ahead, to death and the afterlife, so older Japanese people practice Buddhism to remember the dead and to prepare for the day when they will die.” Seen in this context, it’s easy to understand how the religions coexist in harmony. 

Jishu Jinja (also known as Jishugongen) honors five Shintō kami, including Okuninushi, Susano-o, and Kushinadahime. (Look for another post on Okuninushi, the god of love and favorable matches, on February 14…) 


Like many Shintō shrines, Jishu Jinja also has an altar to Inari, god of rice, sake, and fertility (among other things):

Jishu Jinja Shrine

The shrine lies slightly above and behind the hōndo, or main worship hall, of Kiyomizu-dera, near the center of the temple grounds. If you visit Kyoto, make sure to visit – it’s worth seeing a site where Buddhism and Shintō still coexist.