Yasui Konpira-gu is a popular temple located in Kyoto which enshrines three deities, namely, Emperor Sutoku, Oomono-no-nushi, and Minamoto no Yorimasa. A unique and beautiful festival, Kushi Matsuri is held here; a festival which offers thanks to hair ornaments and combs which are a pivotal point of beauty in Japanese traditional women’s wear. Held annually on the fourth Monday of September, a procession of women will start from the Gion area, hair done in a wide variety of styles and wearing clothes of different periods spanning more than 1,300 years of history. Along with models sporting various periods’ hairstyles, real Maiko will join the parade. Amazingly, all these hairstyles are accomplished by that person’s natural hair!
The Kushi Zuka (Comb Mound) in the precincts of the shrine was built to hold a memorial service for old combs.
The “cuts bad bonds and ties good ones together” sales point of this temple comes from the main worshipped deity, Emperor Sutoku. From the time when Emperor Sutoku threw away all greed and secluded himself at Kotohira-gu, Sanuki (modern-day Kagawa Prefecture) after his defeat in the Hogen Rebellion (1156), Konpira-gu has gathered followers through its belief of “constraint”.
Also, because Emperor Sutoku could not bid farewell to Karasuma-dono when he fell in battle, it is said that he will break all bad bonds which seek to disturb the relationship of a happy couple.
As another belief of the temple, from ancient times, “Konpira-san” was said to be the god of safe sea travel, but because of the recent increase of danger in land travel as well, became the god of traffic safety in general.
The history of this temple is old, beginning before the Nara Period when Fujiwara no Kamatari built the hall and planted wisteria trees in the precincts, declaring it as Fuji-dera (wisteria temple) to pray for the prosperity of the household and prosperity for his descendants.
Later, because Daien Hoshi saw a ghost of Emperor Sutoku in Fuji-dera, a mandate was issued from Emperor Shiraga and Koumyou-in Kanshyou-ji was built (1275-1277), though it was destroyed in the Ounin Revolution.
Passing into the Edo Period, in the year 1694, obeying the word of Uzumasa Yasui, when the Renge Kou-in was moved from present-day Ukyou-ku, in addition to the deity Emperor Sutoku, it welcomed and deified Oomono-no-nushi – a tutelary god from Konpira-gu – and Minamoto no Yorimasa, and because of this came to be known as Yasui Konpira-san.
After the Meiji Reformation, because of an anti-Buddhist movement, the temple was confiscated by Daikaku-ji and renamed as Yasui Jinja, and after the war took the name of Yasui Konpira-gu which lives on to this day.
One of the most popular monuments in Konpira-san is the Stone of Breaking and Bonding; a stone 1.5 meters tall and 3 meters wide with a hole in the centre. Depending on whether you want to break bonds or join them, you write your wish on one of two types of charms – be careful, don’t pick the wrong one! – and then paste it onto the stone. Then, if you wish to break bonds, you pass through the stone from the front; if you wish to make bonds, you pass through from the back and your wish will come true!
At Konpira-san, there are also many Ema written by various famous people – Tezuka Osamu, the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney, for one. Konpira-san is also famous for its charms, and has many unique charms which also come as cell phone straps. Charms – or ‘omamori’ – must always be near you and cannot be left at home; generally, charms should be replaced after one year, and the old ones returned to the shrine with a prayer of thanks.