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法然院 Honen-in

  • Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals
  • Ginkaku-ji Temple Area
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  • ClosedOpen every day

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Ginkaku-ji Temple Area
30, Shishigatani Goshonodancho, Sakyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 606-8422, Japan
  • Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals
Opening Hours
Open every day
Date of post:2015/04/23

Small temple with hospitable atmosphere

  • Temple / Shrine
  • Special Recommendations

Located at the foot of Mt Zenki, this temple was a hermitage of a Buddhist monk Honen (1133-1212), who is regarded as the founder of Jodo sect of Amida Buddhism. Honen studied in Mt Hiei, one of the two monastic mountains of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan along with Mt Koya. After his ardent training with his pupils here, he found that “We have no ability to attain to Buddha-hood (enlightenment). The only way for us to be saved from sufferings is to rely upon Buddha Amida who made a vow to save us. If one is faithful in Amida and chants “Namu Amida Butsu” (I worship Buddha Amida and follow his doctrine), he is saved and is promised to rebirth in the Pure Land through Amida’s mercy”. This teaching was welcomed and accepted greatly by the public who had been suffering most and exempted from believing in the Zen Buddhism.

Honen didn’t establish a temple but his pupils respected him as the founder of Jodo sect and made this place a temple after his death in the thirteenth century. But it was abandoned for a long time. The present temple is rebuilt in the seventeenth century. The buildings are not open to public except certain terms, but visitors can stroll about the garden freely from 6:00-16:00.

This temple has no special significance historically, but is beloved by many people.

Some famous Japanese writers and scholars lay in the graveyard of this temple.

The approach to the temple gate is rather dark with trees even under the blue sky. It makes us feel awestruck. In front of the entrance stands a stone pillar saying “The drunken or the one with meat and food of strong smell is strictly prohibited to come in”. Inside the temple, plain straw-roofed gate, you will feel the change of light. It becomes much brighter. There are two white sand mounds called “Byakusadan-terrace of white sand”. Passing by these two mounds you will get purified for proceeding into sacred area. At the corner of the path is placed a small flower shaped water basin with one flower or a leaf with a line of running water. It is so neat and peaceful. The garden is designed to represent the Pure Land. This world and the next world are connected with a stone bridge. Sitting on the veranda of the main hall, I sometimes feel that I was surrounded by warm and peaceful atmosphere. The garden is famous for camellias. You will enjoy various camellia flowers from late March to mid April.

As the temple is close to the so called Philosopher’s Path, during cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons it has a lot of visitors. Still, you will feel that you are in a sanctuary.

Honen-in home page
Japanese Identities by Yuichiro Edagawa

  • * The information above is from the date of the review. Please be aware that some of the content may vary from the most recent information.
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