February 10, 2011
by Susuki Rie, Aya Suzuki, and Yuino Takenaka
Sennyu-ji is a Buddhist temple that is located in Higashiyama-ku in Kyoto, near Toufukuji. It was founded in the Heian period and is dedicated to the Amida Buddha, Shaka Buddha, and Miroku Buddha. This temple is commonly called Mitera or Midera and originated as a small hermitage where the Emperor Kouhou-Taishi lived during the Tencho era (824-834). In the temple, there are imperial tombs of the successive emperors, including emperor Gohorikawa, Emperor Shijo of the Kamakura period, Emperor Gomizuono of the Edo period and many other emperors who came after him.
When you visit Sennyu-ji, you pass under a big wooden gate. On your left you will see the Youkihi-kannon-zo enshrined in the Yang Guifei Kannon-do. This is a sculpture that combines the Kannon, the Buddhist Boshisattva of Mercy, with the Empress Yang Guifei, an empress of Tang-dynasty China. So the sculpture is also called the Yang Guifei Kannon-zo. This statue is an Important Cultural Property. It was made in China and brought to Japan in 230. It is said its exquisite beauty is because it was made as a way for Yang Giuifei’s lover, the Tang-dynasty Chinese Emperor Xuanzong, to pay his last respects to her.
Yang Guifei was also known as one of the Four Beauties of ancient China and one of the three most beautiful women of the world. She was also known as the woman who caused the An Shi Rebellion, because the Emperor Xuanzong loved her too much. The Yangs were taking power, especially Yang Guifei’s cousin, Yang Guozhong. Jiedushi An Lushan revolted against the Yangs because of their despotic behavior (the An Shi Rebellion). He said that the cause of this rebellion was the Yangs and demanded Emperor Xuanzong to do away with them. Yang Guifei was killed by her eunuch. She died at age 38 in 756.
It is said that the person who prays to this sculpture of Yang Guifei will be able to become beautiful. So many Japanese women visit this temple to pray for beauty. Also, good-luck charms for beauty are sold at this temple.If you want to become beautiful, please come to this temple and pray to this Yang Guifei Kannon-zo.
Further on beyond the gate of Sennyu-ji is the Butsuden, the temple building where the main Buddhist image is enshrined, and the Shariden, or reliquary hall. Behind these buildings are the Reimyouden, the Gozashyo and the Tsukunowaryo, which are all halls closely connected to the Imperial family. On top of the tiled roof of the Butsuden are two tile ogres. If you look at the ogres’ eyes from a distance of 1.5 meters, they say you will be able to see the eyes sparkle. According to a long-held tradition, it is said that if you can see the eyes of tile ogres shine, then you will be able to get married in the future. Please take a look and see if you can see them sparkling. The beautiful shapes of these temple buildings especially stand out in the seasons of fresh green and colored leaves.
It was the first time for us to visit Sennyu-ji. One day, our friend told us about Sennyu-ji and Yang Guifei. Neither of them are very well known. In fact, we didn’t know them either. But we were interested in Sennyu-ji and Yang Guifei. We were very surprised that the temple was very big and beyond all expectations. Our friend told us, “If you pray to Yang Guifei, you can become beautiful.” So we prayed and bought a good luck charm for beauty.
We went to Sennyu-ji in the season of colored leaves, so when we passed under the big gate, we could see the temple matched with leaves which were colored yellow and red. We thought it was so beautiful and we were moved. Two eyes of the ogre were really shining mysteriously. We could have many good experiences at the temple. Sennyu-ji is not famous but we think it is a good unknown spot and is worth a visit. If you visit Sennyu-ji, you can buy some Japanese sweets nearby. We bought some and they were so delicious and beautifully made. We think if you visit Sennyu-ji, you can be satisfied with both the temple and foods.
Near the temple are many places of interest, especially the temples of Tofuku-ji and Unryu-in. In this area they sell some traditional sweets: sekihan manju (steamed bun), mikasa manju (two small pancakes with bean jam in between), and miso dango (dumpling with sweet miso paste).
Nearest bus stop: Sennyuji michi
From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station: Shijo-Kawaramachi bus stop ( No 207)
From Kintetsu Kyoto Station (Exit Karasuma): City bus (No 208)
From Kintetsu Touji Station: City bus (No 202 207 208)
From Gion-Shijo Station: City bus (No 207)
From Kintetsu Station (Exit Hachijou)
Necessary time: 5 minutes to Sennyuji Michi
By JR line
Nearest station: Tofukuji Station (Nara line)
Adult: 500 yen
Elementary school student: 300 yen