A Zen temple tour of Kyoto 京都の禅寺ツアー

  • Published on : 03/12/2018
  • by : J.R.
  • Rating :
    3/5

Discovering zen

Kyoto, the city with 1,000 temples, is home to some of the most impressive Zen Buddhist complexes in the country. See some of the best by trying our recommended tour of the most beautiful Zen temples in the city.

Kennin-ji

The oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, Kennin-ji is located in the historic district of Higashiyama. It was founded in 1202 by the monk Yousai. Kennin-ji is the main temple of the Rinzai School, and in fact it's here, within its walls, where Zen was taught for the first time. It has two beautiful gardens, a long dry garden and a small interior garden, Chouontei, covered with moss, and containing some much-admired maples during the koyo.

Useful information:

Address: 584 Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku, KyotoEntry fee : 500 yen Open: 10am to 5pm March - October; from 10am to 4:30pm November - February

Kennin-ji

Kennin-ji Temple

Wikimedia Commons

Kenninji

Kennin-ji

Kenninji

Kenninji

Kennin-ji's Chouontei Garden

Kenninji

Nanzen-ji

Not far from Kennin-ji is Nanzen-ji, built in 1264 and having first served as a second home to the Emperor. Its magnificent park, which is accessed via an impressive Sanmon Gate, is very pleasant and dotted with Buddha statues. The large brick aqueduct, built in the nineteenth century, is also a curiosity of the place. Many of the sub-temples of Nanzen-ji, including Tenjuan, also have beautiful dry gardens.

Useful information:

Address: Fukuji-cho Nanzenji Sakyo-ku, KyotoEntry fee: 500 yen for the temples of the complexOpen: 10am to 5pm March - October; 10am to 4:30pm November - February

Nanzenji

Nanzenji temple entrance.

DR

Nanzen-ji

Nanzen-ji aquaduct

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Tofuku-ji

Tofuku-ji is a large Zen complex located southeast of Kyoto Station. It is particularly famous for its covered wooden bridge, overlooking a sea of maple trees, a sight that's all the more impressive during the fall. The immense Sanmon Gate is also an important point of interest of the complex: it's one of the oldest in the country. Make sure you also see the gardens of the Hojo, divided into four parts, when you visit.

Useful information:

Address: 15-778 Hommachi, Higashiyama-ku, KyotoEntry fee: Temple: 400 yen, Hojo gardens: 400 yenOpen: 9am to 4:30pm April - December; 9am to 4pm December to March

Tofuku-ji

Sanmon Gate, Tofuku-ji

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Tenryu-ji

Tenryu-ji, also a Rinzai zen temple, is a World Heritage Site located in Arashiyama, western Kyoto. It's very pleasant to visit if you enjoy a day by the river in Arashiyama. The large lake in its garden, with a dry garden on its banks, gives it a unique appearance. In addition, every second Sunday of the month at 9am a meditation session is held at the temple, that's open to all.

Useful information:

Address: 68 Susukinobaba-cho, Saga Tenryu-ji, Ukyo-ku, KyotoEntry fee: 800 yen for all buildings and gardens Open: in summer from 8.30am to 5.30pm; in winter from 8.30am to 5pm

Tenryu-ji

Tenryu-ji

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Kodai-ji

Finally, the beautiful Kodai-ji is located not far from Kiyomizu-dera, to the east of the city. Founded in 1606 by a widow to honor her late husband, the temple especially shines through its beautiful gardens. These include a small stone garden, a pond and a wooden bridge, as well as a tea house and a bamboo grove. It's a small Zen temple, but nevertheless worth a visit.

Useful information:

Address: 526 Shimokawara-cho, Kodai-ji, Higashiyama-ku, KyotoEntry fee: 600 yenOpen: 9am to 5:30pm

Kodai-ji

The garden at Kodai-ji

J.R.

Kodai ji

The dry garden of Kodai-ji

J.R.

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