Kenninji Temple is a magnificent testament to Japanese art and design. Located in Kyoto, it is thought to be the oldest Zen temple in the city. The temple is situated very close to the bustling Hanamikoji and Shijo streets, but once you step onto the temple grounds, you will be transported to a world of tranquility and serenity.
One of the highlights of Kenninji Temple is its two karesansui, or dry landscape gardens. These gardens are meticulously designed to create a sense of harmony and balance. As you stroll through the gardens, you will feel a deep sense of peace and calm wash over you. The gardens offer a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Kyoto.
One of the most famous attractions at Kenninji Temple is the golden folding screen of the Wind and Thunder gods. This stunning piece of art depicts these powerful deities in all their glory. The screen is a replica, with the original stored at the Kyoto National Museum, but it is nonetheless breathtaking. The golden backdrop adds a touch of grandeur to the scene, making it truly awe-inspiring.
Another must-see at Kenninji Temple is the tea jar procession that takes place every May. This procession is a nod to the temple’s strong connection to the origins of tea-drinking in japan. Tea has always played an important role in Japanese culture, and Kenninji Temple has embraced this tradition. In fact, you will find camellia sinensis, or tea, bushes scattered throughout the temple gardens. The monks at Kenninji Temple have been cultivating tea for centuries, and they continue to do so to this day.
Kenninji Temple is also home to a wealth of artistic masterpieces. The temple is filled with important works of art and design, including paintings, sculptures, and a Zen garden. One of the most recognizable artworks at the temple is Tawaraya Sotatsu’s folding screen of Fujin and Raijin, the Wind God and Thunder God. This stunning piece of art is a testament to the skill and talent of Japanese artists.
The Main Hall of Kenninji Temple is another sight to behold. When you enter the hall, be sure to look up at the ceiling. There, you will find a mural of twin dragons that is truly breathtaking. The mural is a more recent addition to the temple, but it is no less impressive. It serves as a reminder of the temple’s rich history and its commitment to preserving and celebrating Japanese art and culture.
In addition to its artistic treasures, Kenninji Temple is also steeped in history. The temple was founded by the monk Eisai, who brought Zen Buddhism to Japan. Zen Buddhism heavily emphasizes meditation, and this practice has become an integral part of the temple’s daily life. The monks at Kenninji Temple spend hours each day in deep meditation, seeking enlightenment and inner peace.
The temple is also closely associated with Dogen, another important figure in the history of Zen Buddhism. Dogen founded the Soto sect of Zen and played a significant role in spreading the teachings of Zen throughout Japan. Both Eisai and Dogen made the arduous journey to China in the early 1200s to study Zen Buddhism and bring it back to Japan. Their efforts have had a lasting impact on Japanese culture and spirituality.
The origins of the tea ceremony can also be traced back to Kenninji Temple. The tea ceremony is a highly ritualized and formalized way of preparing and serving tea. It is deeply rooted in Zen Buddhism and reflects the principles of simplicity, mindfulness, and harmony. The tea room at Kenninji Temple is a testament to the temple’s commitment to preserving and promoting this ancient tradition.
When visiting Kenninji Temple, take the time to explore the surrounding area as well. The temple is located in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto, which is known for its traditional architecture and charming streets. Take a leisurely stroll along Shijo Street and Hanamikoji Street, and you will discover a wealth of shops, restaurants, and teahouses. These streets are vibrant and lively, providing a stark contrast to the peacefulness of Kenninji Temple.
To reach the temple, you can travel by train and bus from Kyoto Station. There are several bus routes that will take you to Gion, the nearest stop to Kenninji Temple. Alternatively, you can take the subway to Gion-Shijo station and walk from there. The temple is located just beyond the theater on Hanamikoji Street.
In conclusion, Kenninji Temple is a true gem in the heart of Kyoto. Its rich history, stunning art collection, and serene gardens make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese culture and spirituality. Whether you are seeking inner peace or simply want to admire beautiful works of art, Kenninji Temple will leave a lasting impression on you. Take the time to explore this ancient temple and immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility it offers.
Address And Maps Location:
584 Komatsucho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu