Gardens Which Reflect the Heart and Enrich the Mind
A zen temple that is practically an art museum.
The Winda God and Thunder God Screens
While the current structure dates back to the Edo period, Kenninji was originally built in 1202, making it the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. Modern visitors enter Kenninji though what used to be the entrance to the temple's kitchens, once adjacent to the abbot's chamber. While this is what may be referred to in modern times as only a "side door" the fact that it was once used as the kitchens means that the structure has an impressively tall ceiling which is something to see.
In the corner of the room is a statue of the fast-footed bodhisattva known in Japanese as Idaten. He has greeted many visitors over the years and his presence is said to be an assurance that they will be offered a meal promptly. Kenninji is also well known as the home of many famous works of art.
One of the most well-known is the Wind God and Thunder God Screens which are thought to have been painted in the Edo period by Tawaraya Sōtatsu and have been declared a national treasure.
Sōtatsu lead an enigmatic life and viewers' imaginations will surely be sparked by trying to determine eactly what sentiments he imbued the Wind God and Thunder God Screens with.
The Two Dragons
The temple is protected by a whirling dragon.
In Japan, dragons are thought to have governance over water, and at Kenninji there are two artworks featuring dragons that are intended to protect the temple complex from fire.
Installed in the Rai-no-Ma, Dragons and Clouds are a set of four sliding doors painted by Momoyama period artist Kaiho Yusho. Yusho was a samurai as well as a painter and this is reflected in the vigor and fierce temperament the dragons are illustrated with. The ceiling of the Nengedo hall is where you will find the second set of dragons, this time painted on the ceiling. The eyes of the dragon on the right will follow you from the entrance to the exit, leaving one with an impression of the dragon's intensity but also with a feeling of being protected.
The mystical strength of Kenninji's dragons is certainly worth experiencing for oneself.
Sentiments expressed in three gardens.
The Daio-en garden was built in the early Showa period and the stones in this large rock garden are arranged in sets of the auspicious numbers seven, five, and three.
The 15 stones and the white pebbles are positioned and raked in such a way to give the viewer the impression that water is flowing through the garden from left to right. The intention is that visitors will be then able to compare the course of their own life with the flow of a stream. Kenninji is also home to the ○△□ and Chouontei gardens. The interesting name of the ○△□ Garden, or Circle-Triangle-Square Garden comes from that each shape is supposed to represent one of the elements of fire, water, and earth. The Chouontei Garden, or the Garden of the Sound of the Tide, is meant to be looked at from any angle and it was the wish of its designer that visitors determine their own favorite place to view the garden from.
The ideology of zen is passed down though art.
Some of the artworks from Kenninji have such a high artistic and historical value that the original works are stored elsewhere. In exchange, meticulous reproductions are on display, allowing many visitors to be able to come in close contact with the art work, and preserving the originals for many years to come.
Kenninji Temple views their mission to be the passing down of the teachings of Zen Buddhism though these artworks. It is the wish of Kenniji that by experiencing magnificent works of art and exquisite gardens, visitors' hearts will be purified and enriched and that they will want to visit the Zen temple again and again.
Opening Hours: 10:00~17:00
584 Komatsu-cho, Yamatooji-dori, Shijo sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, KyotoView in Google Maps
Nearest Station: Keihan Railway - Gion-Shijō Station (7 minute walk away), Hankyu Railway - Kyoto Kawaramachi Station (10 minute walk away)
Nearest Bus Stop: Kyoto City Bus - Higashiyama Yasui (5 minute walk away), Minamiza-mae (7 minute walk away), Gion (10 minute walk away), Kiyomizu-michi (10 minute walk away)
Entrance Fee: 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for middle and highschoolers, and 200 yen for elementary school students.