Nanzen-ji Temple

Outstanding view of the 22 meter Sanmon gate

Text: Keiko Nakamura


Nanzen-ji was built by Emperor Kameyama as his retirement villa in 1291 and later was converted it into a Zen temple. This stately temple is now known as one of the most highest ranking zen temple in Japan.

The great architecture of Chokushimon gate, Sanmon gate and the Hojo building is built in a straight line. The Sanmon gate has an amazing height of 22 meter, and is famous for being mentioned as one of the scenes in a kabuki theater of Ishikawa Goemon, well-known thief character. He points out to this gate and expresses how amazing the sight of it is. The Hojo Garden was designated as Japan's important natural property. The unique pattern of the rocks are said to resemble tigers and cubs crossing through water (tora no ko watashi). The red brick aqueduct is another architecture you cannot miss. It is part of the Lake Biwa Canal that is used to bring water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto. It is still playing its role after 120 years.

Nanzen-ji is a quiet temple at the bottom of Higashiyama Mountain. A walk inside around these amazing architectures offers great moments in any season. My favorite is autumn, when more than 200 trees turns yellow and red. The autumn leaves will color the classical scene with a touch of warmth. 

Gyoten zazen, a meditation class, is offered in the early morning of every other Sunday. After the meditation, participants will have a chance to listen to the priest's speech and start the day fresh.

ADDRESS: 86 Nanzen-ji Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto (map)
PHONE: +81(0)75-771-0365
HOURS: Open for free entrance. Hojo Garden and Sanmon Gate is open between 8:40-16:40 (Dec-Feb is until 16:10)
ENTRANCE FEE: Hojo Garden, Sanmon Gate is 500 yen each

*Gyoten zazen classes are held on 2nd & 4th Sunday. No class in August, 4th Sunday of December and 2nd Sunday of January. Time is between 6:00-7:00 a.m., from 6:30-7:20 during November - March. Free of charge.

★Next TRAVEL IDEA spot of ‘10 Things To Do in Kyoto - Visiting Temples and Shrines' is ‘Ryoan-ji Temple

★TRAVEL IDEA ‘10 Things To Do in Kyoto'
① Visiting Temples and Shrines
② Buying souvenirs
③ Visiting Arashiyama・Sagano
④ Having Kyo-ryori
⑤ Wearing Kimono
⑥ Having Japanese tea
⑦ Having seafood
⑧ Visiting shops in Machiya
⑨ Being exposed to a traditional culture
⑩ Feeling nature