NAVITIME Travel - Japan Travel Guides, Transit Search and Itinerary Planner

A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

When Myoan Eisai traveled to China in the 12th century, he returned to Japan bearing what he learned from the disciples of Zen master Linji Yixuan. Rinzai Zen, a particularly strenuous and borderline abusive school focused on seeing one's true nature, was born from those teachings and Nanzenji in Kyoto was established as one of the many temples dedicated to the school. Muso Soseki, the first head of the temple, might not recognize the place now—many buildings were added over the centuries, and dozens of fires and natural disasters have necessitated rebuilding—but it’s become one of the jewels of Kyoto.

A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji
  • A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    The slice of real estate that the temple now calls home at the bottom of the Eastern Hills in present-day Sakyo Ward, once belonged to the Miidera Temple of Otsu, before it was appropriated by the retired Emperor Kameyama who built a villa on the land. In the years the followed, the temple grew to be wealthy, patronized by the Ashikaga shogunate and the Daikakuji imperial line, and allowed to acquire land holdings in distant provinces.

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    Nanzenji and the other Zen temples in Kyoto were important political centers, as well as places for monks to sit in meditation. The power and wealth of Nanzenji waxed and waned over the years, leaving the temple complex as it stands today, a collection of gardens and buildings constructed over centuries, surrounded by lush greenery.

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    There are a dozen temples in the complex, with a handful of those open to the public at any given time, including, usually, Konchi-in and Tenjuan. In the main complex, the mighty wooden gate is the main attraction, popular for its association with Ishikawa Goemon, the Japanese Robin Hood immortalized in kabuki plays. It was in the gate that the outlaw hero hid after the attempted assassination of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and not too far away that Ishikawa Goemon was executed by boiling in an iron tub. After exploring the gate, wander over to the abbot’s residence to view the dry garden and painted screens.

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    With its setting against the Eastern Hills, Nanzenji is a wonder in all seasons, but in autumn, the grounds welcome enthusiastic foliage hunters for koyo season. The maples around the old temples turn fiery red and the surrounding hills answer in an even deeper shade. Many come to the temple in late November simply to snap a photo surrounded by red and orange foliage.

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    Another reason people come to the Nanzenji complex is to see the aqueduct. The system was built in the 1800s to carry water from Lake Biwa, about ten miles west of Nanzenji. The aqueduct has long since become nothing but a relic of an earlier time, but it’s fascinating to imagine the construction project that brought fresh water to the center of Kyoto.

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    A Jewel in the Eastern Hills in Kyoto: Nanzenji

    It would not be hard to fill an entire day wandering the grounds of Nanzenji, poking around the gardens and perhaps trying to join one of the zazen classes open to the public. But there is plenty to do around this temple, too. You could make a side trip to the Nejirimanpo Brick Tunnel and the other Meiji vintage brickwork in the area, or, even better, find the southern end of the Philosopher's path and explore nearby temples, winding up eventually at Ginkakuji.

    Nanzen-ji Zen Temple
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Sakyou-ku Nanzenjifukuchichou
    Phone
    0757710365
    Remarks
    【URL】http://www.nanzen.net/
  • Facebookでシェアする
  • Twitterでシェアする

Recommended new articles