Honen-in is our favorite temple in all of Kyoto, and that’s saying a lot in a city with over 1600 temples.
Honen-in © joevare
Starting with an incredibly scenic approach that culminates in a moss-covered gate, Honen-in works its magic on the visitor right from the start. Once inside, you’ll pass between two sand mounds that are said to purify the visitor. You then cross a lovely stone bridge over a pond and then make you way through a moss-covered garden to find yourself at a secret grotto behind the main hall.
The main hall itself is only open from 1-17 April (when the camellias are in bloom) and 1-7 November (when the maples turn red). During these times, you have to pay to enter the main hall, but it’s more than worth it (the black Amida Buddha figure here is one of the most sublime Buddha images in all Japan). The rest of the grounds can be toured for free all year round.
There’s also a small kura (storehouse) on the grounds where interesting free art exhibits are held and more serious exhibits are sometimes held in the main hall. It’s worth pointing out that the abbot of Honen-in is one of the most switched on individuals in the whole city and he brings together many of the country’s top artists and intellectuals.
30 Goshonodan-cho, Shishigatani, Sakyo-ku
Non-smoking area: Yes
10min walk from Ginkaku-ji-michi Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus 5 or 17 from Kyoto Station
Official Website (Japanese)
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See my complete list of hand-picked recommendations for Northern Higashiyama, including things to do, places to eat and places to stay.
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