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IMAGE: Kamigamo-jinja (drawing by Fujishima Takeji, 1867-1943)
Kamigamo Shrine (上賀茂神社, Kamigamo Jinja) is an important Shinto sanctuary on the banks of the Kamo River in north Kyoto, first founded in 678.
It is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan and is one of the seventeen Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The term Kamo-jinja in Japanese is a general reference to Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine, the traditionally linked Kamo shrines of Kyoto. The Kamo-jinja serve the function of protecting Kyoto from malign influences.
The jinja name identifies the Kamo family of kami or deities who are venerated. The name also refers to the ambit of shrine's nearby woods, which are vestiges of the primeval forest of Tadasu no Mori. In addition, the shrine name references the area's early inhabitants, the Kamo clan, many of whom continue to live near the shrine their ancestors traditionally served.
Kamogamo Shrine is dedicated to the veneration of Kamo Wake-ikazuchi, the kami of thunder.
The shrine became the object of Imperial patronage during the early Heian period.
Records from the reign of Emperor Heizei (806-809) mention that Kamo-mioya jinja was amongst a select number of establishments which had been granted a divine seal for use on documents. The seal would have been enshrined in its own unique mikoshi (Oshite jinja). This granting of a special seal and the practices associated with its use and preservation conformed to a pattern established by Emperor Kōnin (770–781) in 778.
In 965, Emperor Murakami ordered that Imperial messengers were sent to report important events to Japan's guardian kami, including Kamo Wake-ikazuchi.
Kamigamo, along with the Shimogamo Shrine, was designated as one of two chief Shinto shrines (ichinomiya) for the former Yamashiro province.
From 1871 through 1946, Kamigamo was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines.