Kyoto has long been the political and cultural capital of Japan. Many centuries here was the imperial court. Because of this, the city has become just as a religious capital, because the favor of the royal family guaranteed the temples prestige and income. As a result, today in the city, in addition to many other exciting attractions, there are more than 1,500 temples and sanctuaries.
To visit all of them during a short visit is of course impossible. A good strategy would be to go “anywhere,” just wander around the city and go to the temples that come in the way, if they look interesting. But there are four temples that I want you to recommend.
This does not mean that there are no more worthwhile churches to visit, it just seems to me that having attended these four, you then have the least chance to feel that you have missed something from the temples. By the way, in addition to the temples, it is worth to visit the sanctuary of Fushimi Inari (where thousands of bright orange gates form winding tunnels).
Buddhist temples of Kyoto differ in their beauty – often on the territory of the temple, there will be several beautiful old buildings. The area itself will look like a beautifully manicured Japanese garden. It is in the temples that the cherry blossoms blossom in the spring, and in them, the brightest colors of maple trees are most colorful in the autumn. There will be many differences in each temple that deserve attention, in any of them one can spend from half an hour to a couple of hours.
Kodaiji is one of the many beautiful temples in the Higashiyama district; the full name is Yubuzan Kodaiji. This is a zen-Buddhist temple of the Rinzai-shu school.
The temple was erected in 1605 by his wife Toyotomi Hideyoshi in memory of the great political leader of Japan. The most important relic of the temple is the famous portrait of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Also, there are objects of cultural and historical value: the Main Gate and the Hall of the Spirit, known for the use in its design of maki-e (Japanese varnish, sprinkled with gold or silver powder).
In addition to the beautiful halls of the temple, Kodaiji has a small bamboo grove and a substantial traditional Japanese garden with tea houses, in which tea ceremonies are held now. The garden was planned by the prominent Japanese architect Kobori Ensui.
At certain times of the year, beautiful views of Zen-style illumination are held in the garden.
The temple of Kiyomizu-Dera or the Temple of Pure Water is on Mount Otova. The area is called Higashiyama and is world famous for its temples.
The Temple of Pure Water was built in 778, but due to numerous fires, modern buildings date back to 1663. In 811 the temple passed under the patronage of the Imperial House.
Kiyomizu-Dera is a temple ensemble, which includes a large number of buildings: a prayer hall, a pagoda, the main temple, a canopy for a bell, a stall for horses and many others.
In the main temple – Hondo – is a statue of the goddess Kannon. To it adjoins the big verandah, on twelve meters projecting above the edge of a rock. It has a beautiful viewing platform, which explains its popularity among tourists.
Stone vessel in the temple of Ryoan-Ji Temple
The name of the temple of Ryoan-Ji means “temple of the resting dragon”. This Buddhist temple is an element of cultural heritage and is on the UNESCO list. In the temple, there are several attractions. One of them is a stone vessel.
The vessel is on the other side of the temple, and water is constantly flowing to it for ritual ablutions. The vessel is located in such a way that anyone who wants to drink water from it should bend over to show his respect to this place. On the sides of the vessel is inscribed the inscription: “What everyone has is everything that he needs.” In this simple inscription all the bases of the Buddhist teaching are hidden.
Yasaka Jinja Temple
The temple of Yasaka Jinja was built in the 7th century in honor of Buddhist saint Godzu Tenno, and, according to residents, the temple brings happiness and helps cope with the diseases of the soul and body.
Its special status was given to the temple in the 9th century when the epidemic of plague broke out in Japan. According to one version, during this pandemic, the emperor went to this temple to learn how to defeat the disease. The monks of the temple passed through the whole of Kyoto with a mikoshi, after which the plague epidemic began to recede. In honor of this event in the temple is the Gion-Matsuri holidays.
Now the temple and the park adjoining to it decorate many different lanterns. Thus each lantern has a name. In the evening and at night, the light of these lamps emphasizes the beauty of this place.
Fushimi Inari Temple
Fushimi Inari Tai is the most famous of several thousand sanctuaries in Japan. It is dedicated to the transition of Inari through the country. Inari is a Shinto god of rice. The Japanese believe that foxes are his messengers. Therefore, in the idols of Inari there are many statues of foxes.
The sanctuary of Fushimi Inari became the object of Imperial patronage during the early Heian period. And from 1871 to 1946 the government actively supported him.
The earliest buildings on the hill of Inariyam appeared in 711. But the sanctuary was moved here in 816 at the request of the monk Kukai. In 1499 the main building was built. At the bottom of the hill are the main gate and main building. Behind them, in the middle of the mountain, is an inner shrine, to which thousands of paths lead. To the top of the mountain lead tens of thousands of mounds for worship.
Foxes are regarded as messengers and often are in Inari Sanctuaries. One feature – in their teeth is the key to the granary. Unlike most other Shinto sanctuaries, in Fushimi Inari Taisha the object of worship is open to free viewing. On the Japanese New Year, millions of visitors come here (more than 2.5 million people come here for three days).
The Ninna-Ji Temple Complex
Once in Kyoto, you can not visit the famous temple complex Ninna-Ji, professing the Buddhist school of Singhon-Syu. This complex of unique buildings perfectly demonstrates the depth of Chinese culture, with its traditional pagodas and unusually beautiful gardens.
The foundation of the future temple was laid in 888 – then it served as a home to Emperor Uda. A few centuries later, the temple suffered misfortune – in 1467 during the war fire almost destroyed it. Ninna-Ji was restored only 150 years later.
The main attraction of Ninna-Ji is undoubtedly the five-story pagoda. You can find it in the northern part of the complex.
Temple of Heavenly Dragon Tenryuji
The Temple of Heavenly Dragon Tenryuji is one of the most striking examples of Kyoto Zen temples. It is located in the west of Kyoto.
The temple is located at the foot of Mount Kameyama, in the XIII century there was the imperial palace of Gosaga. In 1329 the palace was converted into a Zen temple. Unfortunately, the temple did not reach us in its original form – for its history, it burned many times and was restored.
However, the garden that surrounds the temple has retained its original appearance. The garden is famous for its collection of stones and is considered to be the brightest example of the initial stage of development of Zen gardens.
The central composition of the garden is the “stone waterfall” – a composition of stones, which symbolizes the flow of water.
Temple of Eiheiji is a Zen Buddhist temple located in the wooded mountains of the Echizen region (Fukui Prefecture), Japan. The temple is the center of Soto’s Zen Buddhist school.
The temple was founded in 1243 by Dogen. In 1473 the temple was badly damaged by the fire, but at the end of the 16th century it again turned into one of the two centers of Soto-Shu. Now it is the central monastery of the Soto sect.
Temple Eiheiji is located 15 kilometers from the city of Fukui. It consists of more than 70 buildings and structures connected to each other by passageways. There are about 50 monks and 250 pupils living in Eiheiji.
Sanjusangendo temple, whose official name is Rangei-in, was founded in 1164 by General Tyra-no-Kiyomori.
Unfortunately, this building was destroyed in the fire. The temple, which has survived to our days, is dated 1266 year. After the building was restored four times. An earthen wall is built around the temple.
The well-known name of the temple is “Thirty-three Spans” – according to the number of the latter between the wooden pillars that support the building. The temple is a long narrow structure – one hundred twenty-five meters in length and eighteen-wide. It is considered to be the longest wooden structure in the world.
The temple is amazing and makes a great impression on visitors. In the central hall, there are rows of identical glowing figures of the goddess of mercy Kannon; their number is one thousand and one. In the center is a giant statue of the thousand-goddess goddess Kannon, who sits on a lotus flower. The sculptor Tankey performed it in 1254.
There is a beautiful garden that is decorated in traditional Japanese style at the temple.
Kinkakuji or Recuonji, as it is also called, is a very popular temple in Japan, was built in the late 14th century, and the last years of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was held there.
The temple, thanks to its impressive architecture and mysterious past, is one of the leading attractions of Kyoto. One of the hallmarks of the temple is that its walls and roof are covered with leaves of pure gold.
In 1950, a mad monk burned the temple; this event was so extraordinary that it was reflected even in literature. In 1987, the restoration of this building was carried out, as a result of which the interiors of the church were partially restored and gold plates on the walls were replaced.
The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple, in a different way the Golden Pavilion, is the most popular landmark and symbol of the Japanese city of Kyoto. The pavilion, walls and roof of the temple are covered with thin sheets of gold. The structure was built in the 14th century as the residence of the shogun of the Ashikaga clan. In the early 15th century, after the death of the shogun, the structure became a Buddhist temple. Here are the Buddha’s relics covered with gold leaf.
In 1950, the temple was burned by a religious fanatic, as described in the novel “Golden Temple” by Yukio Mishima. Five years later the building was restored. Currently, the temple is located on a vast territory and includes a well-kept garden, a picturesque pond in which the pavilion reflects like a mirror, a place for tea ceremonies, and souvenir shops where you can buy “edible gold.”
Temple complex of Daigo-ji
Daigo-ji is a Buddhist temple complex, located in the cradle of ancient Japanese architecture – Kyoto. The complex is listed as a UNESCO heritage site. The name of the temple was formed on behalf of the Emperor Daigo, who was buried here in 930. The very same temple was founded in the early period of Heian in 874. Here is the oldest building in Kyoto – the five-story pagoda, created back in 951.
An ancient pagoda is surrounded by an incredible beauty Japanese garden of the Sakura, which was planted in 1598 – many tourists come here in the spring, in the flowering period. Although autumn in Daigo-ji is also crowded, at this time there are bright red colors in which the leaves of the Japanese maple Momiji are painted.
The Temple of Pure Water
Kiyomizu-dera is a temple ensemble, which includes many buildings – a prayer hall, a pagoda, the main temple where the main deity is displayed – the goddess Kannon, a canopy for the bell, rooms where sutras are stored, a stall for horses, etc. The whole complex is the national cultural heritage of Japan.
From the Japanese name of the temple is translated as “Temple of Pure Water”.
There are stalls for horses at the entrance to the temple. This building belongs to the XIV-XVI centuries; its architecture reflects the national style, it is one of the few surviving buildings of that time and therefore is a national relic. Once those who came to worship the goddess Kannon tied the horses here and went upstairs. Further, the road leads through the gates of Nyoman, on each side of which there are four-meter, remarkable statues. These guards of the gate, they are also called “stone warriors” – Nio. Behind them is a three-tiered pagoda – one of the largest in Japan.
Sanjusangando is a popular name for the Rengeo-in temple in eastern Kyoto, which gained fame thanks to the 1001 statue of Cannon, the goddess of mercy. The name Sanjusangendo is translated as “The hall is thirty-three in length”. The length measure used in traditional Japanese architecture is the distance between two neighboring pillars of traditional architecture buildings (about 2 meters).
The temple was built in 1164 by Tyra-no-Kiyomori by order of Emperor Go-Shirakawa. In 1249 the complex of the temple burned down, and by 1266 only the main hall, preserved to our days, was restored.
All the statues are in the main hall, including a more than 100-meter statue – the longest wooden sculpture in Japan. In the center of the hall sits a huge Cannon, and on each side of it – on 500 smaller statues, standing in orderly rows, each in the growth of a man.
Temple of Horyu-ji
The oldest Buddhist temple in Japan is known to every Japanese and many people in the world under the name Horyu-ji – Temple of Prosperity of the Law.
In the center of the whole territory of the temple is a courtyard of rectangular shape with galleries. In the south there are gates, and in the north – a hall for sermons. Inside this square are the main possessions: the Golden Temple with a large two-story roof, a pagoda of five floors 32 meters high. Inside is the main sacred relic – Buddha image. Ordinary people there access is closed. Surround these major properties are other buildings.
The Horyu-ji Temple is one of the few wooden structures that have survived to our times, which makes it the most remarkable, which the Japanese are proud of.