Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine and the Enkiri

Still searching for that one true love? Try crawling through the enmusubi stone at Yasui Konpira-gu in  Gion, Kyoto.

Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine is a unique shrine in Gion, a district in Kyoto. Gion’s history can be traced back to the Sengoku period. The district was developed for travelers and visitors of Yasaka Shrine. Gion eventually became one of the more popular geisha districts in the whole of Japan. Though Gion is known for Yasaka Shrine, Yasui Konpira-gu is not to be missed for wishing for a good relationship in life.

Emperor Sutoku, Japan.

History tells us that the Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine goes back to the 7th century to Wisteria Temple also known as Fujidera. Emperor Sutoku (1119-1164) favored Fujidera Temple and when he lost at the Hogen Rebellion, over the imperial succession of his younger brother Go-Shirakawa, he was exiled to Sanuki, today known as Kagawa Prefecture, in Shikoku. Sutoku died in exile and was buried on Mount Shiramine.

After death, Sutoku is said to have appeared in a dream to Daien, the Buddhist monk, who reported what he saw to Go-Shirakawa. The new ruler then ordered another temple to be built known as Kanshoji, to appease the spirit of his older brother.

Kanshoji was destroyed in the Onin War (1467-1477) and was replaced by Rengekoin. During the early Meiji Period under the separation of Buddhism to Shinto, the name Rengekoin was changed to Yasui Konpira-gu. Emperor Sutoku, the protective deity for ships and sailors Omononushi no Kami, and the warrior monk and poet Yorimasa Minamoto were all enshrined here.

Maiko, Gion, Japan | Jeff Laitilla

Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine is popular among young Japanese women who gather at the shrine to perform a ritual act of crawling through a hole in a large ema-shaped (small wooden plaque) stone called an enriki or enmusubi stone.

The ritual is observed to pray for breaking off bad relationships and be granted a good one. Petitioners jot down their wishes on paper amulets (katashiro), proceed to crawl through the stone and back through again, pin their katashiro on the stone amongst the thousands of other paper amulets already covering it.

Observing the ritual is said to not just help in breaking up or initiating human relationships but also cure diseases and other causes of harm. The older amulets are removed and burned.

Enriki. | Sjaak Kempe

Aside from the colorful history of Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine and the enmusubi power stone, the temple features the Konpira Emakan Museum dedicated to ema plaques as well as a collection of glass art by famous artists.