Located in northern Kyoto, but a bit of a ways from Kinkakuji, Shimogamo-jinja, along with its sister Kamigamo Shrine, is one of the oldest and most important shrines in Kyoto. It predates Kyoto's establishment in 794! Shimogamo means "Lower Kamo", and it sits at the junction of the Kamo and Takano rivers.
The grounds are very nice and many of the trees in the forest surrounding the shrine are over 600 years old. Note that shrines are generally more modest in appearance and the buildings themselves aren't usually too large.
Visiting during Golden Week, I noticed several people dressed in clothing worn in martial arts competitions wandering the grounds.
There's a guy holding a weapon, even!
There are a few outbuildings, though in general this serves as just a nice place to visit.
However, I noticed a lot of people were gathered around this stage, so being the sheep that I am, I wandered over to see what was happening.
Martial arts demonstration! I don't know anything about martial arts, but it was fun to watch them practice on stage.
Later, they even brought out large sticks. I should probably know what they're called by now, but I don't. I've talked in the past about wanting to experience more of Japan's traditional culture, and seeing a martial arts demonstration (and a wedding on a trip last June) brought a bit of history to me.
Some of the temple was closed off, possibly due to a wedding or the other festivities, so I think I might have missed something. But I can't be sure.
I was still able to find little nooks and crannies with statues or a tiny garden.
Here's the main gate, looking in.
And looking from the main gate into the forest.
There's a large pile of rocks at the entrance. They have a story. It's not on the sign below, though.
You can enlarge the sign to read the history and legend of the shrine.
Some of the old sacred trees have passed away. You can walk the long path in the forest to get to and/or from the shrine.
Admission is free, and the grounds are open 5:30-18:00 in summer and 6:30-17:00 in winter. The best access is probably via Keihan Line coming from Kyoto Station. The shrine itself is about a 15 minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station, but most of that walk will be through the old forest along a broad shaded path. Alternately, bus number 4 from Kyoto Station stops right next to the station (this bus also continues on to Kamigamo Shrine).