Mitarashi matsuri 御手洗祭

Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines are dedicated to kami of the Kamo River, or so I understand.  So appropriately Shimogamo Shrine has a stream running through the middle of its grounds.  Each year in July, the shrine has a festival in which people wade through the stream, light a candle, drink pure Shimogamo stream water, and pray to the kami Mitarashi for good health in the coming year.  My knees are in bad, bad shape, so why not give it a try?  Besides, walking through a stream by candlelight at night sounds really fun!

First, remove your shoes under a pavilion (you are provided with a handy bag to carry them–this is Japan!).




Then walk down a purpose-built ramp that descends into the stream under a bridge lit by lanterns.



Now you’re ready to wade in the stream and light your candle…


It’s a very beautiful event.  The streambed is paved with cobblestones, which make it very easy and comfortable to walk in it.

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After you finish, you put your shoes back on in another pavilion.  Then you can have a drink of pure stream water from the stream.  Maybe it has some health benefits…



It’s highly recommended if you are in Kyoto in late July!