Art, elaborate gardens and a giant gate await at this temple that stands tall as one of the most important of its kind in the country.
Tourists gather at the Nanzenji Zen Buddhist temple nestled at the foot of the Higashiyama Mountains. It is known throughout Japan for its spiritual importance as the head of a branch of Rinzai Zen. The shrine, which is decorated by multicolored trees, is packed full of antique paintings and ornate gardens.
Gaze up at the 72-foot-high (22-meter) Sanmon Gate. From the balcony at the top of the gate, take vibrant photos of the green, orange and red foliage with a mountainous landscape beyond them. Marvel at the 124 sliding-door paintings from the Kano school of art. Many of the works portray tigers. Visit in the fall to make the most of the changing colors of the leaves.
Find yourself in the elegant Hojo Garden. It consists of rocks, small pebbles and sand. The Tsuiji Wall surrounding the grounds is made from mud. The particular arrangement of the stones is known as the “mother tiger and her cubs crossing a river.” Admire a charming waterfall from the tearoom. Check out the Lake Biwa aqueduct from the late 19th century within the temple’s grounds. Visit one of the complex’s 12 sub-temples, which include Nanzen-in, Konchi-in and Tenjuan.
Originally a retirement home for an emperor in the 13th century, the building was later converted into a Zen temple. There is a fee to enter the gardens and certain buildings, although the temple precincts are free. The complex is closed annually for the last few days of December.
Nanzenji Temple is located in the northeastern sector of the city. The nearest subway station is Keage, which is on the Tozai Line. It is only a few minutes away on foot. The Nanzenji-Eikando-michi bus stop is close. These transportation links can be accessed easily from Kyoto Station. Nearby sites include the Philosopher’s Walk, Konchi-in Temple and Okazaki Park.