Myoshin-ji – A Sprawling Buddhist Complex
Situated in the northern part of Kyoto, Myoshin-ji is a fascinating accumulation of temples and buildings of the Rinzai Zen Buddhist faith. Discover it all with us.
The temple complex Myoshin-ji (妙心寺) in Kyoto, Japan, is the head temple of its variation of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. Myoshin-ji is by far the largest school of Rinzai Zen, encompassing numerous Rinzai Zen temples within and outside of Japan.
The vast grounds the temples are situated within the northern part of Kyoto and are easily accessible by public transport. Visiting the temple site allows visitors to experience many different styles of temple architecture and discover some unique Kyoto culture.
The temple grounds are the former site of Emperor Hanazono’s palace. Abdicating in 1318, he became a monk in 1335 and donated his palace and grounds to Rinzai Zen. As thanks, many buildings and place names were dedicated to Hanazono in the area. What was to become the head temple was founded in 1342 by Kanzan Egen, a Zen master and head of the powerful Otokan family.
Many of the temple’s buildings were burned down in the Onin War of 1467, but extensive reconstruction works have successfully restored the temple to its original glory. Myoshin-ji’s scenic natural surroundings are so popular that they are now an official Place of Scenic Beauty and Historic Site, to be protected by the Japanese government and enjoyed by all.
One of the must-see’s of the temple complex is the oldest bell in all of Japan: Ojikicho (黄鐘調), a cast iron Buddhist temple bell commonly known as a bonsho. It was cast in 698 and is the oldest bell in the world still in use. It is usually hidden away in the bell tower and not clearly visible from the outside, but its chime travels far enough that it cannot be missed. At New Year, the bell is rung a full 108 times to purge humanity of the 108 earthly sins. You’ll find Ojikicho to the west of the Houdo building at the center of the temple grounds.
As the temple complex at Myoshin-ji is quite vast, orientation is key. Find a handy map at the entrance gate which demonstrates how the temples and grounds are laid out or pick up a pocket-sized version for extra peace of mind. You’ll see that there is a central north-south pathway which creates an axis for you to orient yourself whilst taking you past all the major temples. This is probably the best route to take, although, if you prefer, a spot of free-roaming might be fun.
Mon – Sun
Open 24/7 (free entry)
Specific buildings may require fees
Adult: 500 yen, Middle School: 300 yen, Primary School: 100 yen
Ukyo, Kyoto, Japan
075-461-5226 (Myoshin-ji Temple Office)
The best way to access Myoshin-ji is to take the Keifuku-Dentetsu Kitano Line to Myoshin-ji Station and walk the 10 minutes to the temple grounds. The great thing about this line is the connection to many other temples, including Tenryu-ji at Arashiyama Station and Ryoan-ji at Ryoan-ji Station. The line doesn’t connect directly to any of the larger stations but will bring you to central Kyoto (via Satsueisho-Mae Station) from where you can connect to JR Kyoto Main Station easily.