Yasui Konpiragu | How this Kyoto Shrine Saved Me from Myself

The main hall location of Yasui Konpira-gu shrine complex in Kyoto.

In my many travels across Japan, I’ve visited A LOT of shrines. Though I’ve certainly been moved by many of these Shinto sanctuaries over the years, none ever managed to bring me to tears. That all changed recently when I visited Kyoto’s Yasui Konpiragu. Found in the Gion district, this shrine is famous all across Japan for its ability to sever the connecting threads of fate (a process that is known as enkiri in Japanese). As a result, this place is perfect for breaking off bad relationships and troubled partners from all corners of the nation flock here in hopes of bringing an end to their romances.

Unbeknownst to many, Yasui Konpiragu’s power is not limited only to the realm of love. The shrine can also help put an end to other “relationship” varieties too. As you’ll see if you go there yourselves, there are many people looking to cut off friendships that have gone south as well as those hoping to escape abusive workplaces. Essentially, insomuch as Yasui Konpiragu and enkiri are concerned, the definition of relationship is pretty loose. The bond you break can be anything from an unsavory romance to a damaging bad habit.

Why I found myself at Yasui Konpiragu is quite the tale. The short version is simply that I haven’t really been treating myself as well as I ought to since becoming a freelance digital marketer. Though professionally I am doing better than ever before, the stress caused by the firehose of opportunity coming my way has led to some pretty destructive coping methods. Hoping to cease my terrible relationship with these habits that were brought about by this recent deluge of demand, I resigned to go to Yasui Konpiragu and finally set things straight.

Now, I’ve had a spiritual experience here and there while visiting one of Japan’s shrines and temples but I am not usually the kind of person who can sense the supernatural on a regular basis. So, you can imagine my surprise when Yasui Konpiragu’s enkiri ritual left me suddenly in tears. The feeling of ridding myself of my hellish habits was similar to that of removing a splinter. It was sudden relief but with a minor dash of pain. I guess you could say it was like pulling out a splinter?

Since making a pilgrimage to Yasui Konpiragu and partaking in the enkiri rite, I have managed to avoid turning to the self-destructive penchants that I normally would when some moronic peon can’t manage even the most basic of tasks. While I have most certainly been tempted by the dark side, the memory of ridding myself of my bad tendencies has been the bulwark I needed to avoid the slippery copium slope.

Note to the wise; do not play around with Yasui Konpiragu’s power. If you truly have some relationship with fate that needs to go, by all means partake in the enkiri ceremony. For everyone else though, please do be careful what you wish for. You might just actually get it…

How to Get There

In the coming sections, I’ll dive into how to partake in Yasui Konpiragu’s enkiri ceremony as well as the history behind the shrine. For now, let’s take a quick break to look at how to get to this special shrine. Compared to many of the other Japan hidden gems that I cover on this blog, getting to Yasui Konpiragu is as easy as it comes. All you need to do is walk over to Gion in the heart of downtown Kyoto. It really couldn’t be easier to find!

As you can see in the map embedded above, it’s basically located near Maruyama Park and the famous Kiyomizu-dera temple complex. One thing to keep in mind is that unlike other Shinto shrines that are open 24 hours a day, this spiritually potent sanctuary closes at 5:30 PM. Because of this, you need to time your visit well. Moreover, due to the shrine being a very popular location, you’re going to need to plan to wait in line as well.

All in all, a trip to Yasui Konpiragu will take around an hour or so if you go at normal hours. Though the spiritually potent shrine is conveniently located in the heart of Gion, its popularity and proximity to many of the other major attractions in Kyoto means that it’s almost always busy.

The Shrine’s Power Stone

The stone of power at the Yasui Konpira-gu shrine complex in Kyoto

OK, let’s get back to talking about how one might go about breaking off bad relationships via Yasui Konpiragu. On the shrine’s grounds, you’ll find a massive megalith in the shape of an ema (those votive tablets that you see hanging around). According to official sources, there’s a crack in the middle of the stone through which good pours into the larger oval hole below. The fissure is hard to see though as the entirety of the rock is covered in pieces of paper.

Not to be mistaken with common stationary, these papers are called katashiro and are regularly used in Shinto rituals. Without going on a total tangent, know that you can essentially think of katashiro as charms that act as your substitute. They basically aid in the transfer of sins and impurities during exorcisms. You can read more here if you’re interested in more deeply understanding these fetishes.

Anyway, getting back to Yasui Konpiragu, know that you’ll want to follow the below steps to properly complete the ritual…

  • Step One
    Walk your behind over to one of the tables found in front of the shrine’s main hall. Here, you’ll find a collection of pens and a stack of katashiro. Seeing as renowned as this Kyoto shrine is, you can expect a crowd here so just follow the throng of people.
  • Step Two
    Donate AT LEAST 100 yen (more is better) via the offertory box and take one of the katashiro. Thereafter, you’ll want to write onto the paper amulet whatever you want to be breaking yourself off from.
  • Step Three
    With your katashiro in hand head on over to the main shrine and pray to the deities enshrined there. We’ll get into who these gods are in a bit but for now, just pay your obeisances as you would anywhere else.
  • Step Four
    Get in line. This is the boring part. I think I ended up waiting around 20 minutes for my turn with the power stone. Luckily, you can kill some time if you read Japanese at a high level by looking at some of the ema hanging around here! #IYKYK
  • Step Five
    When it is finally your turn, quickly pray then crawl through the hole with your katashiro in hand while keeping the wish you’ve written strongly in your mind. The process of going from front to back is said to break off bad relations.
  • Step Six
    From the backside of the ema-shaped megalith, return back through the hole. Unlike with the prior step, this is said to foster a good relationship. If you’re curious, this process of initiating good ones is known as enmusubi in Japanese.
  • Step Seven
    With the help of a little glue, affix your katashiro to the stone and walk away knowing that from henceforth you’ll be ushering in a good relationship with fate.

Despite having an address that is smack dab in the middle of Gion, Yasui Konpiragu rarely pops up on the itineraries of bigger tours or in the major travel guidebooks. Honestly, I don’t have a good reason as to why this is the case. I guess it has to do with the fact that there’s always a lengthy line? Anyway, if you’re looking to have one of your wishes granted and free yourself from whatever is holding you back, definitely swing by this shrine!

Emperor Sutoku’s Connection

For the Japan history buffs out there, let’s now dive into the backstory of Yasui Konpiragu. As far as my research shows, the shrine’s legacy dates back all the way to the reign of Emperor Tenchi. Originally, the sanctuary was actually a temple called Fuji-dera (Lit. the “Wisteria Temple”) and was erected on the orders of Fujiwara Kamatari, the progenitor of the infamous Fujiwara regency that controlled the emperors from the shadows.

Anyway, how Emperor Sutoku enters the picture is a bit of a complex story for those who aren’t well versed in their Japanese history. Basically, the emperor was forced into exile after a failed attempt to recover the reins of power from the Fujiwara clan. This event is today known to historians as the Hogen Rebellion and resulted in Emperor Sutoku’s exile to what is now Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku.

Seeing as this is a Japan travel article, I won’t bore you too much with the details. Basically a Buddhist monk named Daien encountered the spirit of angry Emperor Sutoku who showed him a vision of how much better things used to be. This led to the building of a temple called Kansho-ji. Sadly it was a victim of the Onin War but the Kansho-ji compound was the predecessor to the present-day Yasui Konpiragu.

In the aftermath of the Onin War, another complex called Rengeko-in northern Kyoto would be moved down to the city center. This eventually became the current incarnation of Yasui Konpiragu. Today, the shrine enshrines the ill-fated Emperor Sutoku, Omononushi-no-Kami and an imperial prince.

Other Nearby Attractions

Yasui Konpiragu is located right by Kyoto’s famous Yasaga Pagoda and the shopping streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka

Seeing as the topic of today’s post is right in the middle of all of the action in Kyoto, there’s plenty of other allures on the menu. At least as of when I originally wrote this article, hotel prices were dirt cheap and there were still few tourists due to the pandemic. As a result, I did many more trips to Kyoto than I otherwise would before the borders opened. I recounted a lot of my adventures here but the following are a few other recommendations that I have area guides on…

In addition to the attractions found in and around the city itself, there’s a whole lot more to Kyoto Prefecture. Personally, I hit up Yasui Konpiragu on the way back from Amanohashidate and Ine. If you plan on following suit, just be sure you head back from “Kyoto by the Sea” rather early as the trek back is quite long. That said, this really is one amazing part of Japan that many overseas visitors miss.

Until next time travelers…

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Donny Kimball
Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media.

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