December 10, 2008
by Ayako Senju
If you want to spend a leisurely hour, you ought to visit Honen-in Temple in Kyoto. Once you step into this temple, you will feel time slow down.
The temple gate is open from 6:00 to 16:00, and we can enter the temple precincts for free. The main building is open to the public twice a year, from April 1st to 7th and November 1st to 7th, and requires a small offering of money. This is an independent Jodo-shu temple.
There is a small spring in the garden which is called “Zenki-sui (善気水),” and is one of the famous springs in Kyoto. A legend tells that this spring originated when priest Nincho speared the ground and water then flowed out continuously.
Honen-in was built in 1680 by the priest Nincho (忍澂).
Honen is the name of the priest who founded the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism (浄土真宗, Jodo-shin-shu) and lived from 1133 to 1212. He made a thatched hut for Buddhist training, but after he passed away, that place fell into ruin. About 400 years later, priest Bambu (萬無) decided to build a temple at the site to remind people of Honen. Bambu commended his pupil Nincho to complete Honen-in. That’s how this temple came to be built. In 1953, the temple became independent of the Jodo-shu (浄土宗) sect.
You can enjoy each season at Honen-in, especially the beginning of April and the beginning of November. Usually this temple is quiet; most colors here are the greens of leaves and moss.Even in the wintertime, some trees don’t lose their leaves, and the trunks of trees are covered with moss.I was mystified, because I felt relaxed and didn’t think about time when I walked through the grounds of this temple. The reason may be the harmony that exists between nature and the temple buildings.Honen-in has another charming side to it. When camellias blossom, the temple grounds look very colorful. The dark entry way becomes a path full of pink splashes. Also, the green leaves turn red in autumn.As I mentioned before, they are special open days, from April 1st to 7th and November 1st to 7th, so you can enjoy cherry blossoms or red maple leaves at these times.
How to get to Honen-in Temple
Honen-in temple is surrounded by several famous tourist attractions, including Ginkaku-ji temple, Mt. Daimonji, and the Philosopher’s Path.After touring Ginkaku-ji temple, just follow the road to the south, and then you’ll find Honen-in at the base of the mountains.This temple is close to the “Philosopher’s Path (哲学の道),” so you can also come to Honen-in via this famous walkway.Honen-in is easy to get to. You can enjoy not only the temple itself, but also sites along the way. Both ways, from Ginkaku-ji or from the Philosopher’s Path, are unusually quiet and beautiful, and reflect the four seasons.
Official site of Honen-in (Japanese only)
Honen-in event schedule (Japanese only)