Attraction 400 Rinkacho Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-8686 Japan Published on: 29-02-2016
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Why Chion-in is special ?
Chionin is the headquarters of the Jodo sect of Buddhism and built in 1294 by the Priest Genchi on the site where the founder Honen (1133-1212) first preached and later fasted to death.
Chionin's re-construction in 1633 was financed by the Tokugawa shogunate and the colossal scale of the project is a proclamation of Tokugawa power and the supremacy of the Jodo sect.
Followers of Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism seek to be reborn in Jodo (Pure Land) or the Western Paradise of Amitabha and their Namu-Amida-Butsu prayer-formula is their most well known characteristic.
Chionin is also home to the largest bell in Japan, 5.4m-high, weighing some 74 tons and cast in 1633. 17 monks are needed to ring the bell at New Year. The impressive interior is both immense and ornately beautiful.
Spacious grounds covering 14.5 ha.spread into the surrounding hills. The temple contains many art treasures including an illustrated biography of Honen, designated as a 'National Treasure', along with sliding doors painted by members of the Kano school and a garden by Enshu Kobori.
There is also a massive two-story, 24m-high Sanmon Gate, pictured in the photo below. This is the biggest temple gate in Japan which sets the tone for the large buildings within, which include the main hall with an image of Honen and the Dai Hojo, connected by a nightingale floor made by JingoroHidari. The statue of Honen is said to be self-carved by the master.
The Gongen-do mausoleum enshrines the spirits of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), his son Hidetada (1579-1632; second Tokugawa shogun) and the grandson Iemitsu (1604-1651) (third shogun).
The Assembly Hall is popularly known as the "Hall of One Thousand Mats" - though there are in fact just 360 tatami mats in this huge space.
The Kyozo (Sutra Library) dates from 1616 and contains more than 5,600 volumes of the Issaikyo Buddhist sutras.
Honen's tomb is located in the temple grounds along with the Seishido and the Karamon Gate built in 1633.
The wood for the temple was selected from the best trees in the forests of the Kiso Valley in Gifu Prefecture.
What to explore at Chion-in?
The entrance to Chionin is through the two-story San-mon (main gate) and then up a steep flight of stairs. Standing at 79 feet (24 meters) tall, this is Japan's largest temple gate. It was built in 1619 and has been designated a Japanese National Treasure.
The gate is a fitting introduction to the expansive temple complex of Chionin, one of the largest in Japan and an important religious headquarters. At one time, the complex had 21 buildings. Because of fires and earthquakes, the oldest standing buildings are the Hon-do (Main Hall, 1633) and the Daihojo (Abbots' Quarters, 1639).
Chionin's temple bell (cast in 1633) is the heaviest in Japan, at 74 tons. It takes 17 monks to ring it at the New Year ceremony.
The Main Hall is also huge; it can hold 3,000 people. The corridor behind the Main Hall, which leads to the Assembly Hall, is an uguisu-bari (nightingale floor). This type of floor is constructed to "sing" at every footstep to warn the monks of intruders. You can walk underneath the corridor to examine the way the boards and nails are placed to create this inventive burglar alarm.
Honen's statue, designated a National Treasure, is enshrined in the Miedo.
How to get to Chion-in?
Chionin is located just north of Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto's Higashiyama District.
The temple is also a ten minute walk from the nearest subway station, Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Line (15 minutes, 260 yen from Kyoto Station), or a five minute walk from the nearest bus stop, Chionin-mae bus stop (20 minutes, 230 yen from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus 206).
- Unepected and unforgettable
- See Japanese Buddhism in Action
- This is simply the best garden in Kyoto
- Large Collection of Temples
- Very important Buddhist temple.
400 Rinkacho Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-8686 Japan
Tips for you
Construction? What construction? We have no idea if there's a cost to visit the main temple as it was not open when we visited, but the rest of the grounds are free to wander, and my goodness there's so much to see. For instance, stumbling across the cemeteries while we were exploring was a wonderful find. Regardless of what country you are in, if you're visiting a cemetery the same rules of etiquette apply - visit with reverence. Be respectful. That being said, cemeteries are an interesting way to learn about the community, its customs and traditions..but to get to these particular cemeteries, you must be prepared to climb. There's a long flight of stairs at the back of the main temple. At the very top of the stairs, you'll find other places of worship and buildings. There's a cemetery to the left or right of the stairs behind the buildings. Nothing is marked. We just wandered and found them. It's highly likely that you will see a family or two tending to a headstone, scrubbing away the moss that has grown over it, and burning new incense. More than likely you'll also see elderly people that have made it up that long flight of stairs without breaking a sweat. So while you're catching your breath, reflect with respect, because this is wonderfully peaceful place.
Huge temple that houses the biggest bell in Japan. Home to the most popular sect of Buddhism in Japan, it's a must-go!
I did not know where I was going... and I eventually reach Chion-in Temple but it was an uphill battle!! After visiting Yasaka Shrine, I decided to keep walking and I ended up at Maruyama Park (nice Japanese like Garden) and then I looked up I saw a Temple. I have no idea that the walk was not easy on a hot day....... But it worth the hike to see the structure and burnt off some calories. The colossal main gate, the Sanmon, was built in 1619 and is the largest surviving structure of its kind in Japan. The 70 tonnes bell inside the temple is also one of the biggest in Japan. Aside from the main temple, there is also numerous smaller structures around the grounds, all really photo worthy! I just wish I have more time, as I needed to rush back to the main area for lunch!