April 10, 2009

by Hajime Yozaki; Naoko Iseki

Manshuin Monzeki

2008ua0031 Naoko Iseki           2008ua0488 Hajime Yozaki

What kind of image do you have of Japan? We think a lot of people are interested in some of the many temples and shrines. Manshuin Monzeki is a famous Tendai sect temple that is easy to visit at an easy pace and tucked away in a hidden scenic spot. Also, if you’re lucky enough to visit at the right time of year, you can see the beautiful autumn leaves and evening light-up.


Manshuin Temple, founded by Dengyo Daishi in the 8th century, was originally located in a northern valley of the Saito region on Mt.Hiei, and known at that time as “Tobibo.” In 957 A.D, the then abbot of the Manshuin temple, Zesan Kokushi, was a member of the Sugawara family, and also the head priest at Kitano Shrine. In the very early 12th century, when the scholar-priest Chujin was head priest, the temple’s name was changed to “Manshuin” from “Tobibo.”At the beginning of the Edo period, this temple was moved to its present site by Ryosho, the second son of Prince Toshihito,the builder of the Katsura Imperial Villa. Ryosho devoted himself to reconstructing the temple, and his sense of design and originality can be seen in both the garden and the architectural style of the building. The structures are typical of Shoin-style architecture, and are closely related to that of the Katsura Detached Villa. In keeping with the prestige attached to such powerful patronage, this temple is especially well known for the number of honorable scholar priests to have served here in the past.

Some Important Cultural Properties


“Kuri” is the word used for the kitchen in a temple. Manshuin’s kuri is also an important cultural property. Here you can see a sculpture of “Daikokuten” made in the Kamakura Period, and wearing armor. This figure is also known as the guardian deity of Buddhism.

The “Tiger” room

There are some important cultural properties to be found here too, and the pictures on the standing screens are said to have been painted by Kano Eitoku in the Momoyama Period.

The “Bamboo” room

The pictures on the sliding doors here are wood-block prints of the Edo Period.

The “Peacock” room

The pictures on the sliding doors here were painted by Ganku in the middle of the Edo Period.

The Great Shoin

This large hall contains some important cultural properties, and is an example of the Shoin-style of architecture constructed at the beginning of the Edo Period. The innermost room was formerly the most elevated room in the Shoin, but was moved to its present site on the occasion of the demolition of the Shinden hall. The main statue is of “Amida Nyorai”, and the memorial tablets of the abbots of past generations are also enshrined here.


Manshuin’s garden is designated an ‘Area of Eminent Scenery.’ This garden is characteristic of the “Karesansui” style, which means a garden with a waterless pond made by using lots of pebbles. There is a waterfall rock in a vital spot of the garden, from which a stream of white sand flows out, spreading over and around both sides of the rock in front of the water-less waterfall. The Kirishima azalea on the right hand side blooms at the beginning of May, when the whole tree becomes tinged with red.

The Small Shoin

This small hall also houses some important cultural properties and, along with the Great Shoin, is said to be an excellent representation of Shoin-style architecture. The nail-covers used on the pillars are shaped in the form of Mt.Fuji with the use of a generous amount of cloisonné. In addition, there is an annexed teahouse, “Hassouken”, which we highly recommend you linger over and enjoy at your leisure.


Fudo holy fire

This is held on the 28th of each month, with the first holy fire of the year on January 3rd. Small pieces of holy wood are burned before a Buddhist altar for spiritual purification.

The anniversary of Buddha’s death

Buddhists celebrate the death of Buddha because they believe that once enlightened he was free from the pain of physical existence. This event is held on February 15th, the anniversary of Buddha’s death.


On the dry and sunny days of fall, clothes and books are laid out and exposed to the sun to protect them from mold. The peak time for this activity is from October 3rd to 12th.

Night visits

You can usually visit Manshuin most days until 5 p.m. but in November you are allowed to stay until 9 p.m., in order to enjoy the sensational colors of the autumn leaves illuminated by strategically placed lighting.

Transportation Guide

By Bus

    • From Kyoto Station…take bus No 5.
    • From Kitaooji Station (Subway) …take bus No 8.
    • From Kokusai Kaikan Station (Subway) …take buses No 5, 31, or 65.*

*You need to get off at Ichijo-ji Kiyomizu-cho and walk twenty minutes to the east on foot.

By Taxi

    • From Kyoto Station…about 35 minutes.
    • From Sanjo Station (Keihan Railway)…about 25 minutes.
    • From Kitaooji Station…about 15 minutes
    • From Kokusai Kaikan Station…about 8 minutes.

By Eiden Electric Railway

You need to get off at Shugakuin Station and walk east for about 20 minutes.

Other Information

Opening times: 9:00 am~5:00 pm
Admission: ・ Adults: 600yen

  • High school students: 500yen
  • Junior high school students and under: 400yen

Parking: There is parking for around 50 cars available.

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