Kenninji Temple is one of my personal favourite temples in Kyoto, surprisingly though, it’s not a temple that many foreigners know of. This Zen Buddhist temple was founded in 1202 CE and is the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto! It is nestled in the heart of the Gion district, at the end of Hanami Lane, and is an oasis of calm, home to several beautiful gardens and full of stunning works of art. It is considered to be one of the “five most important Zen temples of Kyoto”. Every screen door is painted with beautiful art so it’s lovely to wander around.
This temple’s founder, Yousai, is reknown for introducing the Zen sect and the tradition of drinking green tea into Japan. It was because of my passion for studying green tea that I first discovered this temple. My tea studies teacher taught me that he is recognized as the founder of tea ceremony in Japan because of his efforts to encourage the cultivation and consumption of tea, so I was curious to see the temple he founded when I traveled to Kyoto.
There are 2 features that Kenniji is most famous for:
- #1 – The painted screen made by the famous artist Tawaraya Sotatsu depicting the images of the wind and thunder gods
- #2 – The dragon-painted ceiling which was installed to commemorate the temple’s 800th anniversary.
While at this temple I also recommend sitting a moment in silence and contemplating the beautiful symbolism of the “Circle-Square-Triangle” Garden. It’s a square-shaped garden and its design is based on a famous work of calligraphy. The idea behind it is that all things in the universe are represented by these three forms.
Tips For Visitors:
- Tuck a pair of socks into your bag to keep your feet from freezing (if you’re wearing sandals) as you’ll have to take your shoes off to enter this temple.
- Visit this temple towards the end of the day, just before it closes, and then stay in the area to explore the Gion District as the sun begins to set.
- Names: Kenninji, Kennin Temple, 建仁寺
- Entrance fee: 500 yen
- Opening Hours: (March-October: 10am-5pm, last entry 4:30pm) (November-February: 10am-4:30pm, last entry 4pm) *Closed Dec 28-31*
How To Get To Kenninji:
- Note: not all tourists maps will list Kenninji. If you look for Gion District as a landmark to get to you’ll be ok, as Kenniji is in this area
- By Bus: From Kyoto Station take either bus #100 or #206 to the Gion stop
- By train: Take the Keihan line to Gion Shijo Station + 10 min walk