The main building of the shrine is a replica of the Chodoin, identical to the Heian Palace, built 5/8 scale of the original. The magnificent stature of the current Heian Jingu Shrine is made up of several original structures built in 1895, such as Daigokuden (main hall), Outenmon Gate, Soryuro, Byakkoro, corridors and Ryubidan that have been renovated or rebuilt over the years . In December 2010, Japan designated 6 structures, including the Daigokuden, as Important Cultural Property along with the 24.4-meter-high Grand Shrine Gate (Otorii) along the path to the shrine, which was designated as Property Tangible Cultural.
The Shin-en Garden within the grounds of the Heian Jingu Shrine is known worldwide as one of the most famous that was created during the Meiji period. The garden surrounds the main building of the shrine and is made up of 4 parts: Shin-en Higashi (east), Naka (center), Nishi (west) and Minami (south). The vast garden, designed by the famous landscaper Jihei Ogawa VII, is approximately 33,000 square meters and in its style features a path around a pond. It was designated as a place of scenic beauty by the Japanese government in December 1975 to show the essence of all the gardening techniques that were collected during the 1,000 years that Heian-kyo (modern Kyoto) functioned as the capital of Japan.
The magnificent Shin-en Garden exhibits a different but equally enchanting side during each season, from cherry blossoms in spring, Japanese lilies in early summer, fall foliage in fall, and snowy landscapes in winter. 100 years since its creation, it is, today, like a space that invites visitors to the world of the Heian period, where they can witness the greatness of nature.
Standing 24.4 meters (~ 80 feet) high, the great torii gate that straddles Heian Shrine’s sandō street dominates the nearby horizon. Drawing visitors through Okazaki Park to the shrine’s impressive Ōtenmon vermilion gate, this torii was the largest in the country when it was built, and is still the tallest in Kyoto. Complete with special construction techniques to secure against earthquakes, the sturdy door legs are 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) in diameter.
Due in part to its Chinese style, the influence of the divine beasts of the four cardinal directions, Suzaku the red phoenix (south), Byakko the white tiger (west), Seiryū the blue dragon (east) and Genbu the black serpent-turtle. (north), abound on the sanctuary grounds. Once the Ōtenmon Gate is entered, stone fountains depicting a tiger and a dragon can be seen to its left and right, and the ‘towers’ at the ends of the main hall are called Sōryūrō and Byakkorō, the’ Tower of the Blue Dragon “and” White Tower of the Tiger “. If you take a closer look at the lanterns hung on the eaves and walkways, you will notice that the four gods also appear there, their silhouettes carved into the sides of the bronze lanterns.
Heian Jingu is a great place to visit while in Kyoto. It is a beautiful, large and peaceful place.