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Why Tenryuji Temple is special ?
Tenryuji (天龍寺, Tenryūji) is the most important temple in Kyoto's Arashiyama district. It was ranked first among the city's five great Zen temples, and is now registered as a world heritage site. Tenryuji is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism.
Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Takauji dedicated the temple to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had just passed away. The two important historic figures used to be allies until Takauji turned against the emperor in a struggle for supremacy over Japan. By building the temple, Takauji intended to appease the former emperor's spirits.
Tenryuji's buildings, were repeatedly lost in fires and wars over the centuries, and most of the current halls, including the main hall (Hojo), drawing hall (Shoin) and temple kitchen (Kuri) with its distinctive small tower, date from the relatively recent Meiji Period (1868-1912).
Unlike the temple buildings, Tenryuji's garden survived the centuries in its original form. Created by the famous garden designer Muso Soseki, who also designed the gardens of Kokedera and other important temples, the beautiful landscape garden features a central pond surrounded by rocks, pine trees and the forested Arashiyama mountains. Muso Soseki also served as Tenryuji's first head priest.
What to explore at Tenryuji Temple?
Tenryu-ji contains various Important Cultural Properties, including portraits of the temple's first head priest Muso Soseki (1275-1351); a wooden carving of Gautama Buddha; illustrations; and a garden, created by Muso Soseki, one of the oldest such landscape gardens in Kyoto, noted for its borrowed scenery effect. Muso Soseki also created the gardens at Kokedera (Moss Garden) to the south in Katsura.
The garden at Tenryuji is particularly popular in spring and fall.
Another highlight of Tenryuji Temple is its hanchi or square entrance pond filled with lotus flowers.
The Emperors Gosaga and Kageyama are both buried here.
Two sub-temples of Tenryuji Hogon-in and Kogenji only open for a few weeks in spring and autumn and can be visited on a combined ticket. Hogon-in is known for its rock and moss stroll garden as well as its fall colors.
Kogenji is also famous for its Japanese garden - a karesansui, (rock and stone) garden in the main building. The pillars of the main hall still bear the sword marks left by samurai from Choshu (present day Hagi), who practised their swordmanship here back in the 1860's
How to get to Tenryuji Temple?
13 to 19 minutes from Kyoto station to Saga-Arashiyama station on JR railway San'in Honsen line. Then 10 minutes on foot.
45 minutes from Kyoto station to Arashiyama-Tenryu-ji-mae on Kyoto City Bus No. 28 and 1 minute on foot.
15 minutes on foot from Arashiyama station of Hankyu Railway Arashiyama Line.
3 minutes on foot from Arashiyama station of Keifuku Railway Arashiyama Line.
- Hands-down one of the most beautiful gardens ever
- Beautiful Gardens and Temples
- Temple with beautiful environment
- Definitely Worth the Visit
- A highlight of any Kyoto visit
Japan 〒616-8385 京都府京都市 右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町６８
Tips for you
The Sgen Pond (foreground) created by Musō Soseki is one of the highlights in the Tenryuji Temple complex. You can sit down on the bench in front of the Hojo building and enjoy the colorful landscape. The path surrounding the picturesque Sogen-chi pond allows visitors to enjoy the scenery from different perspectives.Things to do
Tenryuji Temple (天龍寺) is located northwest of Kyoto Station in the famous Arashiyama (嵐山) area. Tenryu-ji was established in 1339 by shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358) and was chosen as the first temple among Kyoto's Five Mountain System (五山制度, also known as Gozan system), a ranking it maintains to the present day. Tenryuji Temple, like most of the temples in Kyoto, experienced 8 major severe fires in the years between 1356 and 1864. The original area coverage was around 4 km2 (1.54 square miles), but it was expropriated in 1877 during the Meiji period, and only 1/10 of the previously owned property remained. The Tenryuji Temple went through continuous rebuilding during late nineteenth century and the twentieth century. The last major construction was in 1934, and it is more or less what we see today. Tenryuji Temple is now a UNESCO world heritage site as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto since 1994. It was also the first Special Historical Scenic Area named by the Japanese government We visited here at least 2 times during spring and autumn. The most popular times to visit are autumn when the leaves change colors and spring when the cherry trees bloom. There were many buildings in the temple precincts, but we did not have time to see them all even though we visited it many times. We stopped at Kuri (庫裏, temple living quarters), and its unique, gently curving gable roof and white facade make it the most photogenic building in the Tenryuji Temple. Opposite to the Hatto (法堂) is the Hojo (方丈), Sogenchi Teien (曹源池庭園, and Sogen Pond Garden, そうげんちていえん) - the most beautiful parts of the temple. Sogenchi Teien was established almost 700 years ago, and it still maintains its original appearance. It was designed to include the mountains behind as part of its garden. The path surrounding the picturesque Sogen-chi pond allows visitors to enjoy the scenery from different perspectives. The temple and garden showcase unique sceneries in each of the four seasons, but I loved fall leaves the most. In the fall foliage season, you can sit down on the bench in front of the Hojo building and enjoy the colorful landscape. It opens everyday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Oct. 21-Mar. 20). The admission is ¥500 for garden only, and ¥600 for Tenryu-ji Garden and Buildings. You can go there from Kyoto Station by train JR Sagano Line and get off at Saga-Arashiyama, or by city bus #28 to Arashiyama. There is another special tourist train - Sagano Scenic Railway Line (嵯峨野觀光鐵道) with its Sagano trolley romantic train running from Saga Station to Kameoka Station only during the high season. It is a must see if you only visit during their hours of operation. You can check their website for more details. You can take the JR Sagano Line and change to the Sagano Scenic Railway Line at Saga-Arashiyama Station.
The ceiling-dragon, whose scowl follows you, is worth seeing despite the fact that it's a recent addition. The optical illusion is based on one of his eyes being set in the dead-center of the room.
Honestly, I was looking for the entrance to Aarashiyama forrest to see and get lost in the bamboo forrest. It was my Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon idea. However, instead, I found Tenryu-ji Temple. The temple is one peaceful zen temple which is laid on in the architecture to its landscape. The temple are is immaculately clean. Also, I'm not certain if you are not allowed to speak aloud, but it was pretty quite (to my standards) when I visited it. It was nice to stroll around the temple and see where the monks live and practice and you know, zen out. Hahahaha....bad joke. The garden is peaceful. It is a nice place to sit in front of the pond and zone out. There is a river outside of the temple and leads to Arashiyama which is also beautiful. Being here was like being in feudal Japan. If I had more time, I would have explored the surrounding city. It is an easy trip to get here using the metro.