Easily the most recognizable feature of this shrine is the vast red torii gate located far ahead of the main entrance. It’s true that these gates are a common sight at shrines in Japan, but this one is unique in that it stands over 24 meters tall and straddles a four-lane road, making it one of the largest torii gates in Japan.
Heian-jingu Shrine is quite new for a shrine, dating back only to 1895. It was built to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of Kyoto’s establishment as the capital of Japan, a role which it retained until 1868. A spacious gravel courtyard offers an expansive view of the main shrine building, which is a scale replica of the Imperial Palace of the Heian Period (794 – 1185). The traditional reds and greens of the shrine stand out against the clear blue sky behind them.
The shrine also has a garden, entered from the left side of the main courtyard. It is arranged around a central lake that is crossed by a picturesque bridge that almost seems to float above the water. There you can purchase some food to feed to the ever-present koi fish or turtles. The garden requires an entry fee, but other sections of the shrine can be enjoyed free of charge.
The best way to visit the shrine is to approach from the south so that you pass through the massive red torii gate on the way to the main shrine. This path leads through a park and past some interesting museums such as Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. Situated adjacent to the park are Kyoto City Zoo and a museum dedicated to Lake Biwa Canal, which runs just past the torii gate.