Kifune Shrine and Nagashi Somen: Experiencing Kyoto’s Cool Summer
Kifune Shrine 貴船神社 is one of the famous ‘power spots’ in Japan. The shrine is famous for its reputation of en-musubi (縁結び), which means good fortune for matchmaking. It's also well known as a beautiful location in the mountains of Kyoto. It is said that during the hot season of summer, the area around Kifune Shrine has a temperature of 10 degrees Celcius lower than that of the city of Kyoto.
The deity of Kifune Shrine is the god of water. Therefore, from olden times the shrine was worshipped for good conditions of rain. Legend says that in ancient times, there was a ritual where black horses were offered when there was drought and white horses were offered when it rained too much.
It is also believed that the deity of the shrine can help singles find a match. There is a legend of Izumi Shikibu, a Heian period poet, who was able to reclaim the love from her husband after praying at Kifune Shrine. This is where the shrine's reputation for granting good fortune in love and matchmaking comes from. Many people come to Kifune Shrine to pray for their love to come true, or for a good marriage.
There are also omamori (お守り), which are good luck charms sold at the shrine specifically for love and matchmaking. The shrine's omikuji (おみくじ), fortune telling papers, are famous because you need to dip the paper in water before your fortune will become visible. You can purchase an omikuji for 200 yen each.
The area is also very famous for its nagashi somen in summer. Literally "flowing somen noodles," nagashi somen is a traditional summertime Japanese cuisine in which chilled somen noodles are placed in an inclined bamboo chute with water. Diners, seated in a line along one side of the bamboo chute, use chopsticks to pick up the noodles as they glide down the bamboo. A dipping sauce and toppings such as chopped leek add flavor to the plain noodles. Anticipation of the next batch of noodles to slide along, and the necessary pacing, add to the fun. People "downstream" get to wonder which batches of somen will be scooped up by an upstream diner and which will not. A video of nagashi somen can be seen here.
There are rivers flowing through the town of Kibune where Kifune Shrine is located, and visitors are able to dine on nagashi somen or other dishes above the river on what is known as kawadoko.
Autumn Leaves Illumination
The town of Kibune and Kifune Shrine itself are also famous for the changing maple leaves in autumn. Several areas with maple trees are lit up at night for a certain period, and visitors are able to visit the shrine during the night outside of usual opening hours.