Honen-in Temple – Tranquility and Art
Honen-in is a great little temple with scenic surroundings and an artsy ethos. Don't miss this Kyoto gem!
Walking north from Nanzen-ji on what is known as the ‘Philosopher’s Walk’ you will be rewarded with beautiful cherry blossoms in spring and a great atmosphere at any other time of the year. Visitors pass Eikan-do, a small temple famed for its statue of Amida, and then arrive at the small, tranquil Honen-in Temple resting at the base of Mount Nyoigadake, complete with its very own peaceful koi pond and traditional raked Buddhist sand garden.
Founded in the Edo period in the year 1680 in honor of Honen (founder of the Jodo sect 1133-1212), the temple is particularly worth a visit in spring for its cherry blossoms and again in autumn for its magnificent momiji (maple trees) that turn deep red in a spectacular show of nature. Honen-in is also home to a small camellia garden visible from Hojo Hall and particularly pretty when in full bloom.
The aforementioned Hojo Hall is filled with paintings by Kano Mitsunobu and only opened to the public in the first half of April (1-17) and the first week of November (1-7), understandably gaining particular attention of the locals and visitors at that time. While in season, entry to the main hall is subject to entry fees, but they are small and most definitely worth it.
Honen-in often plays host to exhibitions by local artists and musicians. In fact, in recent years there have been increasing numbers of events held at the temple including symposiums, music, poetry recitals and tea parties.
Events at Honen-in (on the official page)
In the rear of the temple you’ll find low set bridges crossing the shallow koi pond and an impressive statue of Jizo – the Buddhist god of the vulnerable (particularly famous for guarding children, mothers and travellers). Take note of the engraved pillar outside the temple stating that alcohol, garlic and meat (not allowed for Buddhist monks) are prohibited inside the temple grounds.
Further, there is a kura, a small storehouse, on the grounds that is used for free art exhibitions. Occasionally, however, these events are held in the main hall, which is a great opportunity to have a peek inside. The current abbot of Honen-in is Shinsho Kajita, one of the most connected people in the whole of Kyoto, it is he who is largely responsible for turning the temple into a hub for the arts.
Mon – Sun
06.00 am – 04.00 pm
free of charge
Sakyo, Kyoto, Japan
no meat, garlic, alcohol inside the temple
Honen-in is roughly 15 minutes on foot from Ginkaku-ji (famous silver temple in Kyoto, not to be confused with Kinkaku-ji – the golden one). If you want to combine visits, it is therefore a good idea to start at one and finish at the other.
There are several ways to get to Honen-in, all of which involve taking the bus as the temple is slightly removed from the Kyoto rail system. Your best bet from Kyoto station is the bus N°100 to Honen-in-cho Bus Stop. It takes about 30 minutes and from here the temple is a short 10-minute walk away. There are numerous other routes, however, so take a look at the map below.