Chionin Temple

Chionin Temple

A serene temple with over 800 years of history

Chionin Temple, located at the foot of Higashiyama in Kyoto, is the head temple of the Jodo-Shu (Pure Land Sect) of Buddhism. With a history spanning over 800 years, this temple is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of japan. Despite its relatively simple architectural design, Chionin Temple exudes a powerful presence and grandeur that captivates visitors from around the world.

The temple grounds offer a tranquil escape from the bustling city life of Kyoto. As you enter through the massive wooden gates, you are immediately transported to a world of serenity and spirituality. The meticulously maintained gardens provide a picturesque backdrop for contemplation and meditation. From the top of the temple, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and the surrounding area, offering a unique perspective of Kyoto’s beauty.

Don’t Miss

One of the highlights of Chionin Temple is the corridor that once warned of intruders by producing the call of nightingales. As you walk along this corridor, you can imagine the samurai guards patrolling the temple grounds, ready to defend against any threats. It is a reminder of the temple’s historical significance and the importance of protecting its sacred treasures.

Another must-see at Chionin Temple is the ancient umbrella placed in the Mieido. This umbrella serves as a symbol of protection, safeguarding the temple from fire. It is a testament to the temple’s commitment to preserving its precious artifacts and ensuring their longevity for future generations to appreciate.

The temple also houses two tiles that would complete the Mieido, proof that it remains unfinished. This unfinished aspect adds to the temple’s allure and mystery. It leaves room for interpretation and speculation, allowing visitors to ponder the significance of this unfinished structure.

How to Get There

Chionin Temple is easily accessible from JR Kyoto Station. A 15-minute taxi ride will take you directly to the temple grounds. If you prefer public transportation, you can take Kyoto City Bus number 206 from JR Kyoto Station and disembark at the Chionin-mae stop. From there, it is just a short 5-minute walk to the temple.

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Alternatively, you can take the subway from JR Kyoto Station. Ride the Subway Karasuma line and transfer to the Tozai line at Karasuma Oike Station. Disembark at Higashiyama Station and walk 8 minutes to arrive at Chionin Temple. The convenient transportation options make it easy for visitors to explore this historic site.

Quick Facts

Chionin Temple was constructed in 1234 and later developed under the patronage of the Tokugawa Shogunate. This patronage contributed to the temple’s growth and allowed it to become one of the most prominent Buddhist temples in Japan.

The temple boasts one of the largest wooden gates in all of Japan. The Sanmon, as it is called, stands 24 meters tall and 50 meters wide. It is a magnificent sight to behold and sets the tone for the grandeur of the temple.

One of the most impressive features of Chionin Temple is the giant bell on the temple grounds. Weighing a staggering 70 tons, this bell requires a team of monks to ring it each New Year’s Eve. It is a tradition that has been passed down for generations and symbolizes the temple’s connection to the community.

The temple flourished under the patronage of the Tokugawa Shoguns

Chionin Temple owes much of its success and growth to the generous patronage of the Tokugawa Shoguns. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, designated Chionin Temple as his familial temple 369 years after its original construction. This designation elevated the status of the temple and attracted devotees from all over Japan.

The spirits of three generations of Shoguns are enshrined in the Gongen-do mausoleum at Chionin Temple. Tokugawa Ieyasu, Tokugawa Hidetada, and Tokugawa Iemitsu are all enshrined in this sacred space. The mausoleum serves as a place of reverence and remembrance, honoring the legacy of these influential figures in Japanese history.

Today, Chionin Temple is home to multiple national treasures, including the Mieido and the Daishoro (Great Bell Tower). The Mieido is the main temple hall and is a designated national treasure. It is an awe-inspiring structure that showcases the finest craftsmanship of the time.

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The Daishoro, on the other hand, houses the largest bell in Japan. This bell is an integral part of the temple’s New Year’s Eve tradition, where it is rung to usher in the new year. The bell’s massive size and weight are a testament to the dedication and skill of the craftsmen who created it.

One of the largest wooden gates in Japan

The Sanmon, or the main gate of Chionin Temple, is an architectural marvel. Standing 24 meters tall and 50 meters wide, it is one of the largest wooden gates in Japan. The gate is adorned with intricate carvings and features a roof covered with approximately 70,000 tiles.

The Sanmon serves as the entrance to the temple grounds and sets the tone for the grandeur that awaits inside. As you pass through the gate, you can’t help but feel a sense of reverence and awe. The craftsmanship and attention to detail are evident in every aspect of the gate, from the carvings to the tiles.

The Mieido is a national treasure

The Mieido, or the main temple hall of Chionin Temple, is a designated national treasure. This impressive structure measures 45 meters wide and 35 meters deep, making it one of the largest temple halls in Japan. The hall houses significant religious images, including large carvings of Honen Shonin, the founder of the Jodo-Shu sect.

The main hall is separated by the nightingale corridor, which produces a distinctive sound as you walk on it. This corridor served as a security measure in the past, alerting the temple monks of any intruders. Today, it adds to the unique atmosphere of the temple and provides a sensory experience for visitors.

A garden with a view

The Hojo Garden at Chionin Temple is a testament to the beauty and tranquility of Japanese gardens. Created during the Edo period, this garden is a designated National Place of Scenic Beauty. Its careful design takes advantage of the surrounding scenery, creating a harmonious blend of nature and man-made elements.

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As you ascend the stairs at the rear of the garden, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the city of Kyoto. The Santei Garden offers a breathtaking vista of the cityscape, providing a different perspective of Kyoto’s beauty. Whether you visit during the day or at night, the views from the garden are truly mesmerizing.

Surrounded by famous temples and shrines

Chionin Temple is conveniently located near other famous cultural properties in Kyoto. Nanzenji Temple, Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and Kiyomizudera Temple are all within walking distance of Chionin Temple. This proximity allows visitors to explore multiple cultural sites in one visit, further enriching their experience of Kyoto’s rich history and heritage.

Nanzenji Temple is a Zen Buddhist temple known for its picturesque stone garden and grand entrance gate. Yasaka-jinja Shrine is a Shinto shrine famous for its annual Gion Festival, one of the most important festivals in Kyoto. Kiyomizudera Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers stunning views of the city from its wooden terrace.

Visitors to Chionin Temple can easily incorporate visits to these nearby attractions into their itinerary, making the most of their time in Kyoto. Each of these sites offers a unique perspective on Japanese culture and history, further enhancing the overall experience of exploring Kyoto.

In conclusion, Chionin Temple is a remarkable testament to Japan’s rich history and cultural heritage. With over 800 years of history, this temple has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, yet it stands strong as a symbol of spirituality and tranquility. From its massive wooden gates to its grand temple hall, Chionin Temple captivates visitors with its architectural beauty and serene atmosphere. And with its convenient location near other famous temples and shrines, it offers a unique opportunity to explore multiple cultural sites in one visit. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a spiritual seeker, or simply a lover of beauty, Chionin Temple is a must-visit destination in Kyoto.

Address And Maps Location:

400 Rinka-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu


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