Japan travel · Travel

Japan travel- Kyoto’s Nanzenji and Heian Temples

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So continuing on from my previous Kyoto post, after Chionin Temple, I reached Nanzenji Temple, a large Zen Buddhist complex nestled at the foot of a hill. As the head temple of a Zen Buddhism sect school, it features several different buildings that require separate admissions tickets. The main hall, the Hojo and former head priest’s residence, featured squeaking floors similar to Nijo Castle which were meant to detect intruders, and a rock garden with rocks that are said to resemble tigers and cubs crossing water. The rock gardens are meant for quiet contemplation which seems like a very Japanese thing.

There’s also a large brick aquaduct that was part of a canal system that carried water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto.
I also went inside the grounds of one of the temples inside, which consisted of a wooden building that you could not enter and a pleasant garden with a large pond and forested grounds. This was the retirement villa built by Grand Emperor Kameyama in the 13th century.

Nanzenji also has a massive Sanmon gate of its own, and it’s said that legendary bandit Ishikawa Goemon sheltered there while running from the law (a 2009 movie about him is one of the few Japanese movies I’ve ever seen). The Sanmon Gate has a chamber on top with stairs on the side. To go up required an entrance fee so I didn’t bother. The Sanmon Gate here is similar to Chionin Temple’s own, though that one is bigger. When looking back at my photos, it’s a little hard to differentiate as I went to Nanzenji right after Chionin (the walk took about 40 minutes).
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Entrance to the Hojo
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Nanzenji’s massive Sanmon gate
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Grand Emperor Kameyama’s retirement villa
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Rock garden inside the Hojo
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Aquaduct that carried water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto

After I went to Heian Shrine, a Shinto Temple which I read somewhere was a favorite of Chinese tourists due to its design being based on Chinese temples. This is apparent in the green-tiled roofs on the red and white buildings arranged around a large open ground. The shrine is a replica of the Imperial Palace that existed in the Heian era (794-1185) in which Chinese influence was at its strongest, hence the architectural similarity.
The temple buildings looked kind of gaudy which I didn’t exactly find so attractive. The reason it looks so new is because it’s not that old, having been built in 1895 but the current buildings were reconstructed in 1976 after being burnt down by fire. The way to the shrine passes through a park with museums and a zoo, and a massive red torii gate.

On the way back, I passed Shorenin Temple, but I was tired of temples by then so I didn’t go inside. I did see the 5 giant camphor trees in front of the temple that are a “natural monument” and were planted by a famous monk.

Besides the temples, even the city streets were attractive since there were a lot of traditional wooden houses and buildings that people still lived in. It’s easy to see why a lot of people are charmed by the city.

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Heian Shrine
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Wacky store or home on a random street

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Aquaduct from on top
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Garden inside Grand Emperor Kameyama’s retirement villa
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Below the aquaduct
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Side view of the Sanmon gate
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Inside the Hojo
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I think this is the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu and his lover
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Shorenin Temple’s massive trees, above and below
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3 thoughts on “Japan travel- Kyoto’s Nanzenji and Heian Temples

  1. Hello Hilton,
    I was planning to visit Japan on a business trip soon and I wanted try and visit as many tourist locations as possible. I loved your blog mainly because it has so many descriptive photos of your visits and they made yearn to visit Japan. Keep up the good work.

    Like

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