Hakusasonso & Shimogamo Shrine

Ok, I’m having a hard time concentrating on my work, so let’s get started with the travel flashbacks, shall we? On July 11, I went on a short excursion around Kyoto with a couple of Japanese friends. I met one of them through a language exchange mixer that KCJS hosted during our very first week of class, and she brought along a companion; they are both Engineering M.A. students at Kyoto University.

The destination for the day was meant to be Mount Daimonji, but the rainy weather made that impossible. After some quick thinking, we decided to visit Hakusasonsô, the home of Japanese artist Hashimoto Kansetsu (1883-1945) and the site of a museum dedicated to his work. Hashimoto drew much inspiration from China and Chinese art. He is most famous for his painting of animals, which are considered masterpieces because the creatures depicted in them seem so vibrantly alive:


Interestingly, Hashimoto kept a number of the animals he painted on the grounds of his house (yes, including the monkey!). The house itself was built in 1916, just a short distance west of the famous Ginkakuji Temple at the very start of the Philosopher’s Path. The gardens surrounding the house are fairly extensive and are “an officially-designated scenic zone.” The garden and the buildings were actually designed by Hashimoto himself. Walking around them on a rainy day was quite atmospheric, with the rain making the grounds seem particularly green and lush.

After that, we visited Shimogamo Shrine, one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan (dating from the 17th century) and one of 17 Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The shrine is located in north central Kyoto, just north of Keihan Demachiyanagi Station in Tadasu no Mori,”the forest of truth.” One of only a handful of primeval forests remaining in Kyoto, legend says that lies will be found out in this forest. Anyway, the shrine itself is sometimes referred to as Kamo-jinja, since both Shimogamo-jinja and Kamogamo-jinja are linked Kamo shrines which serve the function of protecting Kyoto from malign influences. It is dedicated to Kamo Wake-ikazuchi, the god of thunder.

The most striking thing about the grounds around the shrine are the brightly colored vermillion wooden buildings, which are very pleasant to walk amongst. I particularly liked this little bridge:

Not the most adventurous day ever, but a very pleasant one. We also stopped for a delicious lunch at an Okinawan restaurant and for some mitarashi dango, a traditional Japanese sweet. In general, I wish that I’d had time for more relaxed days like this one in Kyoto. So often, I was either studying frantically or off on some rather far-flung sightseeing excursion. It’s nice to be able to take it easy and enjoy the company of interesting people every now and then.