Denise Stephens visits a shrine dedicated to rugby, in Kyoto

Shimogamo shrine is busy the day I visit. Worshippers are ringing bells and clapping their hands before praying to the kami, or gods, as they have done for centuries. I wander around the extensive grounds which are dotted with small sub-shrines here and there, following a path that leads through the Tadasu-no-mori forest. It's peaceful among the ancient trees, a surviving remnant of the forest that once covered Kyoto, with only a few people walking along the paths.

Sawatasha shrine, in Shimogamo temple, Japan, is dedicated to rugby. Photo / Denise Stephens
Sawatasha shrine, in Shimogamo temple, Japan, is dedicated to rugby. Photo / Denise Stephens

At a shrine office, there are good luck charms and wooden plaques

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