God of Feet/Lower Back
Goou Jinja Shrine is located kitty corner to Hamaguri-Gomon gate of Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. It is also called "Wild Boar Shrine", famous for a miraculous power of healing sore feet/legs and lower back. You can see statues of wild boars enshrined in the precinct. On every 21st of the month, the shrine holds a festival called "Ashikoshi-Matsuri" (= Foot/Lower Back Festival) from 3:00pm, when many local people visit to pray for being good in walking.
The main figures of worship of the shrine are Wake-no-Kiyomaro (733 - 799) and his elder sister Wake-no-Hiromushi. Kiyomaro was a bureaucrat who played an important role in the capital relocation project from Nagaokakyo (old capital) to Heiankyo (current Kyoto). His sister Hiromushi is well-known for her charitable work which helped raising a number of orphans. So, she has been deified as "God of Child Raising" and there are many visitors who are involved in child nursing and social welfare.
The size of the shrine is medium - not too big, not too small. It is perfect for stopping briefly on the way to or from Kyoto Gyoen National Garden which is HUGE.
Wake-no-Kiyomaro - a bureaucrat with stormy life
Wake-no-Kiyomaro was born as a court-noble in Wake province in current Okayama prefecture. After he grew up, he started working in Heijokyo, the old capital before Nagaokakyo, as a bureaucrat in the Imperial Palace.
- The ruler at the time was Empress Koken (718 - 770), but she retired to nurse Empress dowager who was sickly. Succeeding ruler was Emperor Junnin, but the ex-Empress Koken still held a political power behind him. She had an adviser "Doukyo", a Buddhist monk, who was heavily involved in policymaking. After Empress dowager died in 760, his political influence became more dominant.
- With the growing influence of Doukyo, Chancellor "Fujiwara-no-Nakamaro", the adviser to Emperor Junnin, was nervous about him and they began confronting to each other. To correct the situation, Emperor Junnin met ex-Empress Koken and addressed his concern about Doukyo's unwelcome involvement in politics. To his surprise, however, ex-Empress Koken was so mad at him that he was unexpectedly dethroned. That happened in 764.
- After Emperor Junnin and his adviser Nakamaro were eliminated, ex-Empress Koken assumed the throne again and gave herself a new name "Empress Shotoku". She then promoted Doukyo, the monk, to the position of Chancellor. And in the following year, Doukyo became "Pope", the highest position under Empress.
- Later in 769, an oracle was delivered to Empress Shotoku from "Usa-Hachimangu" Shrine (located in current Ooita prefecture in Kyushu). According to the oracle, Doukyo was supposed to be the successor to Empress Shotoku. Empress thought the oracle made sense to her, but to make sure it was true, she sent Wake-no-Kiyomaro all the way down to Usa-Hachimangu Shrine.
- At Usa-Hachimangu Shrine, a huge "Ookami" (guardian God for Japan and Imperial Families) appeared in front of Kiyomaro. Ookami said "Avoid Doukyo. Only an Imperial blood should ascend to the throne". Apparently, the oracle delivered earlier was a fake. Kiyomaro immediately returned to the capital and reported his findings to Empress Shotoku, describing the oracle was not true. Surprisingly, though, Empress did not agree to what he reported. It has been said that Empress had an affair with Doukyo, so she was unable to accept reality.
As a result, Kiyomaro and his elder sister Hiromushi were sent to exile in far west of Japan (current Kagoshima prefecture in Kyushu Island). On the way to the west, Kiyomaro was unable to keep walking in middle of the way because his Achilles tendons were hurt by Doukyo before leaving the capital. In addition, assassins sent by Doukyo were getting closer to him. When Kiyomaro was about to give up his life, several hundreds of wild boars appeared from the forest and drove the assassins away. Also, the wild boars healed the pain of Kiyomaro's wounded Achilles tendons, and he was able to continue his journey - this is the famous legend of Kiyomaro given the power of walking by wild boars, which is the background of why the shrine is also called "Wild Boar Shrine".
- In 770, right after Kiyomaro and his sister were exiled, Empress Shotoku passed away. Following her death, Emperor Konin (709 - 782) succeeded the throne, whereas Doukyo lost his backer (Empress) and was left out of the politics in the Palace.
- Accordingly, Emperor Konin reinstated the position of Kiyomaro, praising his courage by which the conspiracy associated with the fake oracle was disclosed. He and his sister were then allowed to come back to the capital.
- After coming back to the capital, Kiyomaro was given important assignments one after another, and eventually, he was leading a really big project - capital relocation from Nagaokakyo to Heiankyo.
Transition of this shrine
- In 780th, Kiyomaro founded two temples in Takao, a mountain area in northwest of the capital (current Kyoto) - Takao-ji Temple and Jingan-ji Temple.
- After Kiyomaro died, a tomb was built at Takao-ji Temple for commemorating Kiyomaro's soul.
- In 824, both temples were combined together into one temple "Jingo-ji" Temple.
- Later in 1851, Emperor Komei granted Kiyomaro a title of God "Goou-Daimyoujin" (= great deity protecting Emperor), praising his previous contributions.
- In 1866, Jingo-ji Temple was moved to the current location following the imperial order by Emperor Meiji, and then the current name "Goou-Jinja" was granted to the shrine.
If you are tired after walking a lot, I suggest that you take a break at "Cafe Arbois" in Heian Hotel, about 5 min. walk to the north from Goou Jinja Shrine. It is a nice little cafe overlooking a beautiful Japanese garden in the hotel. They offer a variety of sweets with coffee or tea.