Relatively new, the Heian sanctuary is nevertheless the symbol of Kyoto due to its historic importance. Its architecture, characterised by the colours red and white, is typical of the Heian era. Built in 1895 after the capital was transferred to Tokyo, the sanctuary commemorates the 1100th anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto. It is dedicated to the first and last emperors who lived in Kyoto: Kammu (736-805) and Komei (1831-1867). In reality, this Shinto sanctuary is a reproduction of the Kyoto Imperial Palace dating from the Heian era. The huge Oten-mon Gate at the entrance to the sanctuary welcomes visitors. Once past it, visitors discover the 8 elegant buildings forming a U-shape around a large esplanade. The most beautiful part of the sanctuary, though, must be the four Meiji-style gardens located behind it. Located on the western side, the Nishi Shin'en garden has a pond surrounded by irises, the Byakko-ike and a tea pavilion. On the southern side, the Minami Shin'en garden is where Japanese aristocrats gathered to read haikus under the cherry trees. Behind the temple, the Naka Shin'en, or central garden, holds the Soryu-ike Pond that is crossed by the famous Garyu-kyou bridge. A bridge of stepping stones, it links the famous Sanjo Ohashi and Gojo Ohashi bridges in the centre of Kyoto. Built in 1910, the Higashi Shin'en garden on the eastern side has a pond, the Seiho-ike, and two traditional-style constructions: the Taihei-kaka and the Shobi-kan. They stem from Choidoin, the former imperial palace.
The sanctuary's architecture is characteristic of the Heian Period, recognisable by the white and bright red.© Chee-Onn Leong / 123RF
The Oten-mon torii welcomes visitors at the entrance to the Heian Sanctuary.© Huang YUETAO / 123RF
This covered bridge with a phoenix on top leads to Shobi-kan, a residential home of Kyoto's ancient imperial palace.© Chee-Onn Leong / 123RF
The Heian Sanctuary was built in honour of Kyoto's 1100 anniversary. It is dedicated to the first and last emperor who lived in the city.© Pascal Bagot
Located behind the sanctuary's main temple, this garden is famous for the Soryu-ike bridge: a walkway of stone pillars which once served as the foundation stones for the girders of Kyoto's two main bridges.© Sam D Cruz / 123RF