Seimei Shrine, Shrine of the Mystic Abe no Seimei

One of Japan’s more intriguing historic figures is the famous spiritualist, or Onmyo-ji, Abe no Seimei. In addition to the unusual nature of his work, his life was also quite mysterious. This mystery has in turn led to a constant recurring fascination with him and his life ranging from TV series, movies and more. Of course, all this popularity makes his own shrine a popular spot. Though forgotten for centuries Kyoto’s Seimei Shrine is one of the most popular shrines in Kyoto.

Seimei Shrine 

Roughly 1,000 years ago Abe no Seimei suddenly appeared and became instantly famous. His sudden appearance, however, left many rumors and suspicions about his origins. If you like to hear the legends and stories of the life of Abe no Semei, see our post on Abe no Seimei!

The entrance of Seimei Shrine is on Horikawa Street and is quite a large gate, so you won’t miss it. Despite the large entrance, the shrine grounds are not so big.

stone torii bearing the mark the Abe no Seimei at the entrance of Abe no Seimei shrine
Shrine entrance: Abe no Seimei’s mark, a star known as the gobosei [五芒星], is all over the shrine grounds.
The shrine is particularly crowded as of late because in no small part to the figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, who once dressed as Abe no Seimei for one of his skating routines.

The water from this well is drinkable!

Once you pass through the torii, you will see a small bridge and a curious little statue next to it.

statue of shikigami at seimei shrine

This small bridge is a small version Ichijo-modoribashi Bridge, an ancient bridge just across the street. Next to the bridge is a statue one Seimei’s supernatural spirit helpers, a shikigami [式神]. Shikigami are small spirits that Abe no Seimei employed to do any number of things, from delivering messages, making tea, doing laundry etc…According to folklore, he hid his invisible shikigami under Ichijo-modoribashi Bridge.

Allegedly, the shikigami open the gates of Seimei’s house—therefore making them open seemingly automatically.
Statue of Abe no Seimei at Seimei Shrine
Statue of Abe no Seimei

The location of Seimei Shrine was once the actual home of Abe no Seimei himself. After Seimei passed away in 1007, Emperor Ichijo created the shrine to honor his great feats as a spiritualist. Unfortunately, everyone forgot about the shrine and was ignored until 1928.

honden of seimei shrine
Honden