Omikuji are fortunes written on strips of paper that visitors can buy at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. People can make a small donation and select a random fortune from a box. The omikuji contains a general fortune which varies between great luck and great curse. The fortune paper also includes fortunes regarding different aspects of life, such as business, travel, studies, romance and marriage. If the fortune is bad, it is customary to tie the paper to a tree in a shrine. The reason for this is that the bad luck will stay at the shrine instead of following the person. It’s a similar custom to writing a prayer on an ema with the exception that with ema people can specify what they wish from the future.
There’s a short walk from the giant torii gate to the actual shrine. You enter the shrine through the main gate, called Ôtenmon, pictured above. The Heian shrine is a shinto shrine built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of Kyoto, and it was modeled after the old Kyoto Imperial Palace. In reality, many of the buildings have been rebuilt in the late 1970s after a fire ravaged the shrine, but that doesn’t make the shrine any less majestic.
In addition to the great torii gate which, being 24,2 meters tall, is one of the tallest in Japan, the Heian shrine is also known for its gardens. Having a tight schedule we decided to see them another time, but at hindsight we definitely should’ve visited the gardens as well. The entrance to the gardens costs 600 yen, but the entrance to the shrine itself is free and there’s plenty to see there too if you just want to admire the buildings. Even though I have been to the Heian shrine a couple of times, the size of it still blows my mind. I hope the following photos give you some idea of the size of the area.
The building on the corner in the photo above is called Sôryûrô (Blue dragon tower) and on the other side of the yard there is another one called Byakkorô (White tiger tower). The photo below shows a close-up of the Sôryûrô.