Jonan Imperial Villa

Jonan-gu is in the area that was under the peaceful rule of Emperor Toba. It was a strategic gateway to the ancient capital of Heian-kyo (now Kyoto). It was also a beautiful riverside scenic spot on the Kamogawa River. In time, it became a villa of aristocrats, and towards the end of the Heian era (794-1185), it served as a magnificent imperial villa for the retired emperor, Shirakawa. Then, it also actually became the imperial villa of Ex-emperor Toba and the start of government by cloistered emperors. There was a flow of people coming and going to the residence to the extent that it was a focal point of the capital, and residences lined the compound. There were also lodgings for nobility as well as the shrines and temples of the emperors. Thus, it was seen as a prosperous sub-capital at the heart of culture and government over a period spanning more than 150 years of the emperors and ex-emperors.

Jonan-gu was praised for its beauty in the changes of the four seasons. People often boarded barges on the lake of the imperial villa, and the villa was emulated for it s elegance as people enteretained there through poety parties from time to time. Jonan^gu came to carry out spendid religious festivals more and more for hte patron dieties of the imperial villa. Exhibitions of hourse racing and archery contests on horsback continue to be carried out today.

The Ex-emperor and monk, Shirakawa, left behind a record of things which wre popluar in his time in the writings of Ryoujinhishou. In the text, he invites others to come and see festivals, and to "see the festival at Jonan-dera."

At the end of the Heian era, there were the wildly popular pilgrimages to the Kumano Sanzan in Kishu (present-day Wakayama Prefecture).

Before departing on their pilgrimages, the nobility prayed for safe journey along the way as well as purifying themselves by abstaining from eating meat. In particular, the Ex-emperors, Shirakawa and Toba often chose Jonan-gu as a spiritual place to start their pilgrimages to Kumano. They would seclude themselves and do purificiation rites for seven days before departing on the pilgrimage of devotion which took a full month for the roundtrip. In those times, many people chose Jonan-gu because it impressed people with its lodgings, and it was believed that Jonan-gu was a suitable place to start from for a religious journey

Thus relious pilgrims from the capital would float down the Yodogawa to present day Osaka to the first of the ninety-nine ojis.