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2024 Zodiac Pilgrimage

The year 2024 is the Year of the Dragon! 7 temples and shrines in Kyoto recommended for zodiac year pilgrimages

The Chinese zodiac sign for the year 2024 is "辰", or dragon. There are many temples and shrines in Kyoto that are closely associated with dragons, making it a good place to pay homage to the Chinese zodiac in the year of the dragon. In this issue, we will introduce seven temples and shrines where you can encounter various dragons. Check out the special exhibitions and gifts offered as well.

1.2024 will be a year of ascent in honor of the dragon.

What kind of being is a dragon anyway?

The dragon is the only one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac that is considered an imaginary creature. Its appearance is a mixture of various animal elements. For example, its two horns resemble a deer, its head a camel, its eyes an ogre, and its body a snake. It also has long whiskers and ears, and its back is covered with scales.

Incidentally, Chinese dragons have five claws, while most Japanese dragons have three. [In Japan, however, most Japanese dragons have three claws.
And the one scale that grows upside down under the chin is called gyakureki. The term "touching the breech scale" was born from the fact that touching this breech scale would anger the dragon.

On the other hand, dragons have also been believed to protect temples and shrines from fire as the god of water. Perhaps the reason why dragons are often seen in Kyoto is because the city has many wooden structures.

The dragon ascending to the sky is a symbol of good fortune. In honor of the auspicious dragon, we wish that 2024 will be a year of upward momentum.

2.Unryuzu (dragon and clouds) at Tenryu-ji Temple, depicting dragons glaring in all directions / Arashiyama

Tenryuji Temple was built by Ashikaga Takauji to mourn the loss of Emperor Godaigo. The temple is registered as a World Heritage site, and the Sogen-ike Garden offers beautiful seasonal scenery.
One of the most popular attractions during zodiac visits is the "Dragon and Cloud" painted on the ceiling of the Hatto Hall. The ceiling was painted by Japanese-style painter Matazo Kayama in 1997 to commemorate the 650th anniversary of the passing of the priest Muso Kokushi, founder of Tenryuji Temple. The dragon in black ink glaring sharply in all directions from the heavens will overwhelm you when your eyes meet its gaze.
Incidentally, the first 108 pairs of visitors can ring the temple bell at the New Year's Eve bell ringing, which begins at 23:45 on New Year's Eve.

Tenryuji Temple

lecture hall of a temple (esp. Zen)

Tenryuji Temple

Unryu style of grand champion's ring-entering ceremony

Tenryu temple

  • Tenryuji
  • Kyoto Prefecture Kyoto City
  • Short walk from Randen Arashiyama Station
    13 minutes walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station
  • Tel.075-881-1235
  • Hours of Prayer
    Garden 8:30-17:00 (Reception closes at 16:50)
    Halls 8:30-16:45 (reception closes at 16:30)
    Law hall "Unryu-zu" 9:00-16:30 (Reception closes at 16:20)
    Unryu (Dragon and Cloud)" is open to the public only on Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays (with daily open periods in spring, summer, and fall).
    *Suspension of visitation to the "Dragon and Cloud" section of the Dharma Hall: December 31, 2023 (Sun.) - January 3, 2024 (Wed.)
    Year-end and New Year's events
    December 31st - New Year's Bell
    January 1: Charei (tea ceremony), celebration of the saint's birthday, and practice of the Amended Prajnaparamita.
    January 3: Revised Hannya Manjusri event

3.[Receive an award related to the legend of the dragon hole at Yasaka Shrine / Gion, Gion, Hyogo Prefecture

Yasaka Shrine is the headquarter of the Gion faithful who pray for protection from bad luck.
The main shrine, which still retains its Heian-period architectural style, is said to have an underground pond where a blue dragon lives. This pond is also called "Ryu-ana" (dragon hole), a legend that suggests a deep connection between the blue dragon, who presides over the east, and Yasaka Shrine, which protects the east side of Kyoto.
The "blue dragon stone," available at the awarding office, is believed to bring good fortune if placed on a household altar or in the direction of the East and enshrined. Furthermore, the notation on the red seal, which is awarded year-round, will change to "Kinoetsutsu" (甲辰) in 2024, so it is recommended that you bring it along with the zodiac mikuji when you visit the temple.

Yasaka Shrine

The main shrine of Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine Red Seal Oriental Zodiac Signs

Red seals and Oriental zodiac lotteries: 500 yen each

Yasaka Shrine

  • Yasaka Shrine
  • 625 Gion-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
  • 5-minute walk from Keihan Gion-Shijo Station
    Short walk from bus stop "Gion
  • Tel. 075-561-6155
  • Main Shrine / Opening Hours
    Free in the precincts (Shrine office 9:00-17:00)
    Opening hours of the awarding office during New Year's Day areOfficial sitecheck
    Year-end and New Year's events
    December 31, around 19:30 - Pilgrimage to Okera
    January 1, 5:00- Baijiu Festival (Wakerasai)
    January 3, 8:00~ New Year's Day
    January 3, 9:00~ First Noh Dedication
    January 3, 13:00- Karuta Hajime Ceremony

4.[The fusuma paintings of clouds and dragons at Ryoan-ji Temple are open to the public for a limited time only / Omuro

Ryoan-ji Temple, a World Heritage site, is famous for its "Seitei," a dry landscape garden that expresses the beauty of Zen.
In the spring of 2023, 32 sliding door paintings of "Cloud and Dragon" were dedicated by Mr. Morihiro Hosokawa, making a total of 40 sliding door paintings. To commemorate this event, the fusuma paintings are open to the public for a limited period of time in the Hojo, the main hall of the temple. The year-end and New Year holidays, which mark the Year of the Dragon, are the third phase of the special exhibition, and are a great opportunity to view the 32 sliding doors of the "Second to Eight Dragons," so please be sure to visit.

Ryoanji Temple

Image courtesy of Ryoanji Temple

Ryoanji Sliding Screen Painting

Sliding door painting of "Cloud and Dragon" by Morihiro Hosokawa

Ryoanji Temple

  • good judge of horses or cattle
  • 13, Ryoanji Goryonoshita-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
  • Short walk from bus stop "Ryoanji-mae".
    7 min. walk from Keifuku "Ryoanji" station.
  • Tel. 075-463-2216
  • opening time of the gate
    Hours of visitation / 8:30-16:30 (Dec. 1-Feb. 31)
    Year-end and New Year's events
    November 1, 2023 - March 31, 2024
    Special Exhibit of Sliding Door Paintings of "Dragons and Clouds" by Morihiro Hosokawa, 2023, 3rd period: 32 sliding door paintings 《Dragon 2〜8》.

5.The wooden dragon carving popping up from the ceiling is a highlight [Takio Jinja] / Near Tofukuji Station

Takio Shrine is located near Tofukuji Temple, where the restoration of the main shrine was completed in 2023.
On the ceiling of the hall of worship is an 8-meter-long dragon sculpture. The dragon is so dynamic that it is rumored to have been trapped in the shrine by a wire netting because it was said that the dragon would move out at night to drink water. In contrast to the powerful sculpture, visitors can also get an adorable dragon omikuji fortune at the shrine office. There are also many dragon-related gifts, such as dragon-shaped papier-mâché and netsuke, which you can take home and display as good luck charms to commemorate your zodiac visit.

Takio Shrine, worship hall, dragon sculpture

Dragon sculpture on the ceiling of the hall of worship

Takio Shrine

(Left) Popular dragon papier-mâché for 2,000 yen (Upper right) Dragon fortune for 500 yen (Lower right) Ema (votive tablet) for 500 yen at Takio Shrine

Takio Shrine

  • large shrine built at the end of a Shogun's reign
  • 11-718 Honmachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
  • Approx. 3 min. walk from JR Tofukuji Sta.
  • Tel. 075-531-2551
  • Main Shrine / Opening Hours
    Free in the precincts (Shrine office 9:00-16:00)
    *Sometimes the shrine office is not open.

6.You can meet komainu (guardian dragons) instead of komainu (guardian dogs) [Fushimi Shinpo Shrine] / Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Jinbo Shrine is enshrined at the site associated with "Taketori Monogatari" on Mount Inari.
The shrine is said to have been founded in the early Heian period (794-1185) and is dedicated to ten different sacred treasures. The main shrine is guarded by two magnificent guardian dragons, the heavenly dragon and the earthly dragon. After visiting the shrine, you can divine your fortune for the year with a dragon omikuji (fortune slip).
In addition, one of the shrines on the temple grounds, Ryuzu Okami, is home to a statue of a dragon head.

(stone) guardian lion-dogs at Shinto shrine

(Left) A statue of the dragon head at the Dragon Head Grand Shrine (Right) Dragon fortune 500 yen

Fushimi Jinpo Shrine

  • Because it's fushimikan, it's Jinja
  • 15 Fukakusa Sasayamacho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • 12 minutes walk from JR Inari Station
    15 minutes walk from Keihan Fushimi Inari Station
    15 minutes on foot from the bus stop "Inari Taisha Mae"
  • Tel.075-642-5838
  • Main Shrine / Opening Hours
    Always available for worship
    Shrine office 8:30-16:00
    Year-end and New Year's events
    January 1, early morning New Year's Day Festival

7.Unryu (dragon and clouds) paintings by the Kano school can be seen at Sennyuji Temple / Higashiyama

Sennyu-ji Temple, which mourns the family of successive emperors and has a very strong connection with the imperial family.
The Buddhist temple is designated as a national important cultural property, and its ceiling is decorated with "Unryu" (cloud and dragon) painted by Tanyu Kano with powerful brush strokes.
In 2024, the museum will also hold a "Kyoto Winter Journey" special exhibition of undisclosed cultural properties. In the Shariden, which has been open to the public only in the year of the dragon and on special occasions, visitors will be able to view the ceiling painting "Unryu-zu" by Kano Sansetsu, known for his "Naruki-ryu" (roaring dragon). It is a privilege to be able to compare the two paintings by two painters of the Kano school, which is only possible in the year of the dragon.

Sennyu-ji Temple

Sennyu-ji Temple

Dragon and clouds" by Kano Tanyu on the ceiling of the Buddhist temple

Sennyu-ji Temple

  • Sennyuji
  • 27 Sannaicho, Sennyuji, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • 15-minute walk from Sennyuji-michi bus stop
    20 minutes walk from JR Tofukuji Station
  • Tel.075-561-1551
  • Main Shrine / Opening Hours
    Visiting hours: 9:00-17:00 (Last admission: 16:30) *Open until 16:00 from December to February
    Entrance fee/500 yen *500 yen for the garden, the throne room, and the sea meeting hall (separate entrance fee required)

  • Winter Journey in Kyoto" Special exhibition of non-public cultural properties, Shariden, Sennyuji Temple
    January 6, 2024 (Sat.) - March 18, 2024 (Mon.) *No viewing on January 8 (Mon., national holiday)
    Hours of visitation: 10:00-16:30 (registration closes at 16:00)
    Adults (junior high school students and older) 900 yen, elementary school students 500 yen

8.[Mysterious experience with the dragon impulse at Unryuin / Sennyuji Temple

[Unryuin is a branch temple of Sennyu-ji Temple, which has a 600-year history as a temple of sutra copying.
What you encounter at the entrance is a rather mysterious dragon impulse. If you compare the face from each direction while looking at the nose area, the length of the face appears to change. Experience the changes in the dragon as if it were alive.
This museum is also holding a special exhibition of undisclosed cultural properties as part of the "Winter Journey to Kyoto" event. Inside the main hall "Ryukaden," the sliding door painting "Ssoryu Fuu Rai Zu" by Dono Musui, which dynamically depicts the Wind God, Thunder God, and two dragons, will be on special display. Various other temple treasures related to dragons will also be on display.

Unryu-in Temple

Winter view from the window of the Shikishi

Dragon impulse

Unryu-in Temple

  • Unryuin
  • 36 Sannaicho, Sennyuji, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • 15-minute walk from Sennyuji-michi bus stop
  • Tel.075-541-3916
  • Main Shrine / Opening Hours
    Visiting hours: 9:00-17:00 (Reception closes at 16:30)
    Admission fee/400 yen
    Year-end and New Year's events
    December 31: Bell tolling at the end of the night (from 11:50 a.m., ends at 108 times) Official Insta-AccountLive streaming available at
    January 1: Normal viewing

  • Winter Journey in Kyoto" Special Open House of Unryuin, Sennyuji Temple
    January 6, 2024 (Sat.) - March 18, 2024 (Mon.) *No viewing on January 8 (Mon., national holiday)
    Hours of visitation: 10:00-16:30 (registration closes at 16:00)
    Adults (junior high school students and older) 800 yen, elementary school students 400 yen
*Please note that the information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
*Since this site uses automatic translation, the translation may differ from the original Japanese content.

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