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Kenninji Temple

Visit this Zen Buddhism temple for a slice of history, art and tranquility. It is said that the temple is the oldest of its kind in Kyoto.

As part of the Kyoto Gozan (the leading temple of Zen Buddhism), Kenninji is one of the oldest and most important Zen temples in the city. The temple and its buildings stand tall and proud as the head of 70 other shrines throughout the country. Tourists come here to see the traditional artwork and the pretty Zen gardens.

Enter the Hattou building, which is used as a main hall. It shows off a classical pent roof, and statues of deities and legendary Japanese priests. Browse the pieces of art in the temple, such as the screen-door paintings of the wind and thunder gods. Marvel at the Twin Dragons work, which marked the 800-year anniversary of the temple in 2002.

Amble through the Chouontei Garden to enjoy its calm atmosphere and mossy setting. Meditate among maple trees at the San-zon-seki, a set of spiritual rocks that represent important Zen Buddhism themes. View the Circle Triangle Square Garden by the priest’s living quarters; it symbolizes all matter in the universe. Head to the teahouse, which was built in 1587.

The temple is part of the Rinzai tradition of Zen and was founded in 1202. It claims to be the oldest of its kind in the city. The monk credited with bringing Zen to the country is buried here. Over the centuries, the shrine has been ravaged by fire. As a result, it has been rebuilt several times.

The site is open in the afternoons, and there is an admission fee. It is situated just south of the Gion area, surrounded by the avenues of Shijō and Gojo. Take a train to Gion-Shijō Station, which is just a few minutes from the temple on foot. The station is in the Higashiyama ward, in the northeast of the city, and it can be reached via the Keihan Main Line.

Like to make your stop at Kenninji Temple even more memorable? Don't miss the chance to try one or two of these things to do:

Want to experience this famous attraction in the best possible way? Then you can't go past a Scholar-Led Shintoism & Buddhism Walking Tour.

If you'd like even more activities, peruse our Kyoto things to do page.


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