Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

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Domo arigato.
  • Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Sanmon Main Gate of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Aqueduct within Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Aqueduct within Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Aqueduct within Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Aqueduct within Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Aqueduct within Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Aqueduct within Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Aqueduct within Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Aqueduct within Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Hatto (Dharma Hall) Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Hatto (Dharma Hall) Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Hatto (Dharma Hall) Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Hatto (Dharma Hall) Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Hatto (Dharma Hall) Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Hatto (Dharma Hall) Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • O-genkan of Kuri - Nanzen-ji Temple Kitchen

    O-genkan of Kuri - Nanzen-ji Temple Kitchen

  • Honbo Nanzen-ji Temple In Kyoto

    Honbo Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Saisho-in Entrance/Gate Subtemple of Nanzen-ji

    Saisho-in Entrance/Gate Subtemple of Nanzen-ji

  • Poem Saisho-in Subtemple of Nanzen-ji

    Poem Saisho-in Subtemple of Nanzen-ji

  • Shoro (Belfry) Nanenz-in Subtemple of Nanzen-ji

    Shoro (Belfry) Nanenz-in Subtemple of Nanzen-ji

  • Shoro (Belfry) Nanenz-in Subtemple of Nanzen-ji

    Shoro (Belfry) Nanenz-in Subtemple of Nanzen-ji

  • Stone Lantern (Toro) at Temple Grounds of Nanzen-ji

    Stone Lantern (Toro) at Temple Grounds of Nanzen-ji

  • West Gate Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

    West Gate Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

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Facts & Figures

Nanzenji, formerly known as Zenrinji, is a large Zen Buddhist temple complex in Kyoto. It is also one of the head temples within the Rinzai sect (one of three major Zen Buddhist sects in Japan). Nanzenji is the superior temple to the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto (Kyoto Gozan), which are Tenryu-ji, Shokoku-ji, Kennin-ji, Tofuku-ji and Manju-ji. The area is a national designated Historic Site. The famous and huge two-storey Sanmon Gate forms the main entrance of Nanzenji. It has a height of 22m and is part of the top three gates in Kyoto. The other two are San-mon Gate at Chion-in Temple and the Goei-do-mon Gate at Higashi Hongan-ji Temple. Within the complex there are in total 12 subtemples located like Konchi-in Temple, Tenjuan Temple, Nanzen-in Temple and Hojo. The Hojo gardens (Leaping Tiger Garden) received the title of a Place of Scenic Beauty. Through the vast grounds of the temple complex passes a 19th century aqueduct. The aqueduct carried water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto. For sure not a sight you would expect in this place. Nanzenji is one of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto.

  • Hojo and Sanmon Gate:
  • Opening Hours - 8:40 am to 5:00 pm (March - November, last entry 4:40 pm)
  • Opening Hours - 8:40 am to 4:30 pm (December - February, last entry 4:10 pm)
  • Closed: - December 28 to 31
  • Admission Fee - 500 yen (Adults), 400 yen (High school students), 300 yen (Junior high and elementary school students)
  • Konchi-in Temple:
  • Opening Hours - 8:40 am to 5:00 pm (March - November, last entry 4:40 pm)
  • Opening Hours - 8:40 am to 4:30 pm (December - February, last entry 4:10 pm)
  • Closed: - open all year
  • Admission Fee - 400 yen (Adults), 300 yen (High school students), 200 yen (Junior high and elementary school students)
  • Nanzenin:
  • Opening Hours - 8:40 am to 5:00 pm (March - November, last entry 4:40 pm)
  • Opening Hours - 8:40 am to 4:30 pm (December - February, last entry 4:10 pm)
  • Closed: - in December 28 to 31
  • Admission Fee - 300 yen (Adults), 250 yen (High school students), 150 yen (Junior high and elementary school students)
  • Tenjuan Temple:
  • Opening Hours - 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (March - November)
  • Opening Hours - 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (December - February)
  • Closed: - open all year
  • Admission Fee - 400 yen (Adults), 300 yen (High school students), 200 yen (Junior high and elementary school students)

My tips for local activities

Explore the best parts of my favourite city Kyoto with a local guide. The tour takes approximately 3,5hrs. Check out this page for more details.

History

Nanzenji started as a retirement villa for Emperor Kameyama (1249 – 1305) during the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333). The construction of his detached palace took till 1264. In 1291 it was converted into a Zen Buddhist temple. The temple complex was completely destroyed by fire in 1393, 1447 and during the Onin Civil War (1467 - 1477). Nanzenji was rebuilt in 1597 and more buildings were added during the Edo period (1603 - 1868).

Location

Map of Japan

Nanzenji is located close to Kyoto's Philosopher's Walk and Ginkakuji Temple.
Address: 86 Fukuchi-cho, Nanzen-ji, Sakyo-ku Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8435, Japan

How to get to Nanzenji?

  • 20min from Kyoto Station to Keage Subway Station by Tozai Line and
  • 10min walk from Keage Subway Station to Nanzenji or
  • 35min from Kyoto St. to Nanzenji-Eikando-michi bus stop by Kyoto City Bus Nr. 5 and
  • 10min walk from Nanzenji-Eikando-michi bus stop to Nanzenji

Sightseeing spots within Nanzenji Temple complex

Top:

Sanmon Gate - The famous gate was built in 1628 by daimyo Todo Takatora (1556 – 1630). The two-storey main gate honours the soldiers who died during the civil War Oska Natsu-no-jin (1614 - 1615). The view from the upper floor is great and it can be easily accessed against a little entrance fee (500 yen).

Hodo Hall - The lecture hall can be found right behind the Sanmon Gate. It is the main hall of the temple complex. The last restoration of the building was done in 1909. Unfortunately the place is not open for the public. Hodo contains statues of Bodhisattva and Buddha, like Monju-Bosatsu (Manjushri Bodhisattva), Shaka-Nyorai (Gautama Buddha) and Fugen-Bosatsu (Samantabhadra Bodhisattva). It is still possible to get from the outside a glimpse of the famous dragon in the clouds painting on the ceiling of the hall.

Hojo Hall - The abbot’s (head priest) quarters has the status of a National Treasure. It is a combination of two buildings. The larger one was moved in 1611 from the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The smaller one was original built at the Fushimi Castle grounds in 1624 - 1644 and later moved to Nanzenji. Hojo is most famous for its over 100 paintings on the sliding doors (fusuma-e) by artists of the Kano school, like Kano Motonobu (1476 – 1559) and Kano Eitoku (1543 – 1590) and the beautiful rock garden. Hojo and Hodo Hall are connected by a covered walkway.

Gardens of Hojo Hall - The well-known artist and garden designer Kobori Masakazu or better known as Kobori Enshu (1579 - 1647) was responsible for the layout of the dry landscape garden next to the larger building. He also created the gardens for Nijo Castle, Imperial Palace in Kyoto and Osaka Castle. Since 1951 the garden with the name - Leaping Tiger Garden - has the status of a National Site of Scenic Beauty. The combination of big rocks, raked gravel and green moos is outstandingly beautiful. Next to the smaller building is another dry landscape garden located. In 1966 the layout was created by priest Zenkei Shibayama (1894 – 1974), a former abbot of the Nanzen-ji Temple.

Nanzenin Temple - This subtemple of Nanzenji includes a small hall, the enshrined statue and mausoleum of Emperor Kameyama (1249 - 1305) and a beautiful strolling garden with a pond (Sogen-ike Pond) at its centre. The Nanzenin Garden has the status of a National Place of Scenic Beauty and as a Historic Site. The temple stands at the spot where the detached palace of Emperor Kameyama was constructed.

Konchi-in Temple - It is one of the small subtemples of Nanzenji. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimochi (1386 - 1428) gave the order for the construction in the beginning of the 15th century. Konchi-in was relocated in 1605 from the northern part of Kyoto to its current place. The garden there is considered as one of Japan's finest and was created between 1611 and 1632 by Kobori Enshu (1579 - 1647).

Suirokaku Water Bridge - The aqueduct is part of the Lake Biwa Canal and was constructed during the Meiji Period (1868 - 1912). It is used to this day as the major fresh water source for Kyoto. The red bricks construction is really an unusual sight within the Nanzenji temple grounds.

Tenjuan Temple - This subtemple is dedicated to the Zen master of Emperor Kameyama. Do not miss the impressive rock and pond garden at the temple grounds.

Festival & Events (dates can change without notice)

April

Miyako Odori (1st - 31th)
The traditional annual spring dance of the Kyoto district Gion Kobu performed by Geiko and Maiko is a must-see on your Kyoto visit. Don't miss the most popular dances the Miyako Odori "Cherry Blossom Dances" or "Dances of the Old Capital" at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater (located close to Gion Corner).

May

Aoi Matsuri (15th)
The highlight of this festival is a large parade from Imperial Palace through Shimogamo Shrine to the Kamo Shrines. More than 500 people wearing aristocratic costumes from the Heian Period (794 - 1185). The Aoi Matsuri belongs with the Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri to the three most famous festivals in Kyoto.

July

Gion Matsuri (whole month)
The month July is full of different events like the Yoiyama - Kyoto's Magical Night (locals in kimonos look at the giant Gion floats the day before the parade) or the famous Yamaboko Junko (float procession on the 17th of July).

October

Jidai Matsuri ("Festival of Ages") (22nd)
People celebrate with a large parade between Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine the anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto. App. 2000 participants wearing historical costumes from different time periods. Enjoy this great festival which last around 2 hours.

My 100 Best Moments in Japan

Train ride from Osaka to Kyoto

I am visiting Japan nearly every year since 2004. This is my collection of the 100 best moments in my favourite country. Enjoy the pictures and I hope you will start your own journey soon.
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