April 12, 2004
This temple was built at the end of the Heian period, and as a member of the Imperial family was the chief priest for generations, it has long been considered endowed with a special beauty.
Shoren-in is located in Higashiyama, very close to Yasaka shrine, Maruyama Park, and right next door to Chion-in. When you stand in front of Shoren-in, you can also see the huge red gateway to Heian Shrine. Also, it is pretty close to Shijo Street, so it is in a really convenient place. On the way to Shoren-in, you can find many places to buy souvenirs of Japan. There are many interesting shops in this area, and if you are lucky, you may also catch a glimpse of a maiko-san, too. The temple is not on a busy street, so you can feel more relaxed as you stroll around.
You can either take a train or bus to get there, and the closest station is Higashiyama Station. However, I really recommend you walk from Yasaka Shrine.
This temple has a beautiful garden, and at the beginning of May, the azaleas are exceptionally beautiful. Later in the year, when the maple leaves turn red, it takes on a whole new look. After you enter the gate of Shoren-in, there is a kiosk where you will have to pay a fee of 500 yen to enter. You need to take off your shoes to go into the temple, but then you can walk freely around. If you wish, you can try some green tea and Japanese sweets while you are looking at the beautiful garden. Once you have finished exploring the inside of the temple, you put your shoes back on, and move into the garden. The entrance to the garden is pretty interesting itself, and there is a waterfall and a pond with some wonderful Koi, or Japanese carp.
This is an entrance of the garden.
One aspect of this temple which is pretty interesting is that Dainichido and Shougunduka are also parts of this temple but are located in a different place, to the east of Maruyama Park. You can walk from Shoren-in to these places, however, it takes about 30 minutes to get there. Shougunduka is famous for the fantastic view it offers of the city of Kyoto. The name Shougunduka comes from the clay image, complete with armor, of a general that was buried in this place; therefore it came to be called Shougunduka. You need to pay 300 yen to enter here, but it is easily worth it because the view is just amazing. You can see pretty much all of Kyoto city from here, so I really recommend you go there at night, or just around sunset. The garden here is stunning all year round because of the great variety of trees and plants, such as cherry trees, peach trees, wisteria and azalea. Once again, the autumn vista of colored leaves is something that should really be experienced.
Shoren-in and Shougunduka are certainly well known places in Japan. However, not many people actually visit them, and don’t know just how beautiful they actually are. These are really good spots to visit, relax and be yourself. I wholeheartedly recommend you visit these beautiful, timeless and often overlooked secret treasures.