Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto
Kuri of Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto
Sogenchi Garden of Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto
Facts & Figures
Tenryu-ji Temple or "Heavenly Dragon Temple" is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and belongs to the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto (Kyoto Gozan), which are Nanzen-ji (Supervisor Role), Shokoku-ji, Kennin-ji, Tofuku-ji and Manju-ji. Out of these five Tenryu-ji is ranked number one. This impressive head temple of the Rinzai Zen Buddhism School is truly a highlight within the Arashiyama district.
Explore Ryokans in Kyoto
Ryokans are the perfect way to discover old Japanese culture and traditions. The temple complex contains one of the best and beautiful gardens in Kyoto. Tenryu-ji Garden (Sogenchi-teien), designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty by the Japanese government, incoporates perfectly the mountains of Arashiyama in the background. The 14th century landscape garden is one of the oldest in Japan and an outstanding example of shakkei (borrowed scenery) garden design.
- Tenryu-ji Temple:
- Opening Hours: - 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (March 21st - October 20th)
- Opening Hours: - 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (rest of the year)
- Closed: - never, open whole year
- Admission fee Hojo garden - 500 yen (Adults), 300 yen (Students)
My tips for local activities
How about exploring the beautiful Arashiyama district (incl. Sagano Bamboo Grove, Togetsukyo bridge, Tenryuji temple and some special food) in Kyoto with a local guide. Check out this page for more details.
Originally the first Zen temple of Japan (Danrin-ji Temple) was located at the Tenryu-ji site. Later emporer Emperor Go-Saga (1220 - 1272) and his 7th son Emperor Kameyama (1249 - 1305) built an imperial villa (Kameyama Detached Palace) at this location. In 1339 Tenryu-ji was built by Ashikaga Takauji (1305 - 1358). Takauji was the first shogun and founder of the Ashikaga shogunate and he wanted to honour Emperor Go-Daigo (1288 - 1339) with these buildings. The temple complex was completed in 1345 and covered an area of nearly four square kilometers. During the centuries the temple complex with its over one hundred subtemples was destroyed 8 times (1358, 1367, 1373, 1380, 1447, 1468, 1815, 1864) by fire and the latest reconstruction in a smaller scale is dating back to the Meiji era (1868 - 1912). Finally in 1994 Tenryu-ji received the status of an UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.
Tenryu-ji Temple is located within Arashiyama district in the western outskirts of Kyoto and near the famous Sagano Bamboo Grove.
Address: 68 Susukinobaba-cho, Saga Tenryu-ji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 616-8385 Japan
How to get to Tenryu-ji?
- 15min from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station by JR Sagano Line and
- 11min from Saga-Arashiyama Station to Tenryu-ji or
- 33min from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama-Tenryuji-mae Bus Stop by bus nr. 28
Sightseeing spots within Tenryu-ji Temple complex
Sogenchi Garden (Sogenchi Teien) - This outstanding strolling pond garden was created by the well-known garden designer Muso Soseki (1275 - 1351). It received the status of a Site of Special Historic and Scenic Importance by the Japanese government. The centrepiece of the garden is the Sogen Pond surrounded by pine trees, rocks and the Arashiyama mountains in the background. The layout of the garden was never changed over the centuries. This place is my must-see recommendation for you.
Hatto (Dharma Hall) - The Lecture Hall was completely destroyed during a fire in 1864. The temples huge Mediation Hall (Zendo) was then relocated and used as a replacement. On the ceiling of the Hatto hall you will find a very famous painting with the name "The Cloud Dragon" by artist Kayama Matazo (1927 – 2004). He painted it in 1997. During the process he replaced the old dragon painting (Unryu-zu) by Kyoto-based Nihonga artist Suzuki Shonen (1848 - 1918).
Kuri - This kitchen building was constructed in 1899 and renovated in 2013. With its distinct design it became the symbol of Tenryu-ji. Do not miss the large painting of Indian monk Bodhidharma inside Kuri by abbot Hirata Seiko (1924 - 2008).
O-hojo (Main Hall) - It is the largest structure of the temple complex and consists of two buildings - Kohojo (Small Hojo) and Daihojo (Large Hojo). Kohojo was built in 1924 and Daihojo in 1899. Both are connected with the Kuri. Inside Daihojo you will find the image of Shakyamuni Buddha. It is a Important Cultural Property. Another highlight is the dragon painting on the sliding doors (fusuma) by artist Chutaro or known as Wakasa Butsugai (1888 - 1957).
Chokushi Gate - It is the oldest temple structure. The one-story gate represents the yotsuashimon architecture style during the Momoyama Period (1573 - 1600).
Teahouses - These two teahouses (Kanu-tei and Shoun-kaku) were constructed in 1934 by abbot Seki Seisetsu (1877 - 1945).
Yu'un-an - This building complex is used as a facility for meetings, meditations and workshops.
Tahoden - The Hall of many treasure was constructed in 1934 during the Showa period (1926 - 1989) by abbot Seki Seisetsu (1877 - 1945). Inside you will find a sacred statue of Emperor Go-Daigo (1288 - 1339). He studied here in his younger years.
Important Cultural Properties - Tenryu-ji owns famous writings by Kitabatake Chikafusa (1293 - 1354), illustrations and paintings of Seiryo Dogen Zenji (1200 - 1253), Yunmen Daishi (862 - 949), Avalokitesvara, a wooden carving of Gautama Buddha and 3 portraits of Muso Soseki (1275 - 1351).
Shigetsu - The Michelin-starred restaurant offers a Zen vegetarian cuisine, known as "shojin ryori” and is located within the Ryumontei (Dragon Gate Pavillion). Ryumontei was built in 2000.
Festival & Events (dates can change without notice)
One day before spring arrives (lunar calendar) the Setsubun is celebrated. Bean throwing (Mame maki) ceremonies are held at the shrine to get a good fortune for the year. Do not miss the bonfire on the evening.
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).
Ochatsubo Dochu (1st)
The Ochatsubo Dochu or Traveling Tea Canisters festival dates back to the Edo Period. It represents the practice of showing the new tea harvest from Uji to the ruling shogun in the old days. Now during the parade large ceramic containers with tea are carried by people wearing traditional costumes from Kenninji Temple to Yasaka Shrine.
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.
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).
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.
The well-being and growth of young children is celebrated at the shrine and in the rest of Japan.
Where to stay in Kyoto?
Day trips from Kyoto:
My 100 Best Moments in Japan
I have visited 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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