Okazaki is a district of Kyoto that is home to many famous shrines and temples such as Heian Jingu and Nanzen-ji. It is also home to a particularly old shrine, Okazaki Shrine [岡崎神社], one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto. Historically associated with fertility and childbirth this shrine gets many visitors today, though not all are hoping for children, instead they are enchanted because it’s filled with statues of bunnies!
Okazaki Shrine is located on busy Okazaki district, but it is usually not very crowded. As Kyoto is extremely popular with tourists these days, it is rare to find shrines in the center of Kyoto where you can take your time and genuinely enjoy the shrine.
Once you get in, it wont take you long to find all the bunny statues!!
So, Why the Bunnies?
You are probably wonder why there are so many bunnies in this shrine. Actually, the shrine’s full name, Higashi Tenno Okazaki, is derived from the fact that the shrine sits in the east of Kyoto Imperial Palace, and east is the direction of the rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac. Also coincidentally, at one time a lot of rabbits lived on the shrine grounds.
Rabbits seem to be a universal symbol of fertility, and the same is true here. Many people visit Okazaki Shrine to pray to have a child. In fact, Emperor Takakura’s wife prayed at Okazaki Shrine for the safe birth of their son.
For those hoping to conceive children, they splash water on the stomach of this black rabbit right near the honden.