In a city surrounded by mountains, sometimes found at the edge of a bustling road, it is possible to forget about them. It is for this reason perhaps, that the bright-eyed students of Kyoto University walk along Imadegawa Dori without a second glance at a large, orange gate not far from their path. This gate, as though it were marking the boundaries of reality, is a gateway to Mt. Yoshida – a ‘city’ mountain with ancient trees, a park, a hip café, and shrines that are hundreds of years old.
Yoshida Shrine was built by the influential Fujiwara clan back in 859 as a guardian of Kyoto. It went on to influence the Shinto religion, stating it to be the base of ‘everything’, including Buddhism. It is a complex of shrines, each possessing different powers. One of its most interesting sites is an octagon shaped shrine called Daigengu, which is said to enshrine all the main Gods of Japan. Visit it, and it will be as though you have visited 3,000 shrines.
Until the Edo period, the locals of the area had a deeper relationship with the mountain, relying on it for firewood and sometimes even holding celebratory banquets on its premises. But as their lifestyles transformed, the mountain was abandoned. The locals eventually got around to revitalizing it. Today, the air is lighter with the sounds of children who run up and down the mountain.
Mt. Yoshida takes on an otherworldly appearance at twilight when orange light bathes the city, a mysterious tanuki makes an appearance, and a monk chants in the distance.
Mt. Yoshida reveals a new secret upon each visit. It’s hidden behind a gateway after all.