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Precinct Guide

3-Genpei-ike Pond 源平池


There are two ponds just inside the main torii gate, the Heike pond to the left of the gate, and the Genji-ike pond to the right of the torii gate. They are named after the Heike and Genji clans and it is said that they represent the rise and fall of these two great clans. The Heike clan is another name for the Taira clan, and Genji is another name for the Minamoto clan. (The two ponds together are called the Genpei pond, taking the Chinese character Gen from the Genji clan, and the Chinese character for Hei from the Heike clan, and combining them together to form the composite word Genpei.)

The rivalry between these two great clans concluded with the victory of the Minamoto clan and the establishment at Kamakura of the first samurai-based Shogunal government.

There are three islets in the east called Genji Pond and four in the west part called Heike Pond. You can enjoy an excellent display of lotus blossoms in summer.

The two ponds came to be called the Genpei-ike ponds in the early 20th century, although the ponds themselves date from 1182. It is said that the name derives from the opposition of the two rival clans, mirrored here in the placement of the two ponds on either side of the main approach to the shrine, coupled with the placing of three islands in the Genji pond and the four islands in the Taira pond. In Japanese, the Chinese character for three is the same sound as the character for birth, whereas the character for four is the same as the reading of the character for death. Since the Taira went into decline and the Genji were in the ascendant, the three and birth and Genji were all linked together, and the four islands, and death and decline and the Taira were linked together in the Taira pond.


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