The renowned Nanzenji Temple is situated at the foot of the verdant Higashiyama mountain range in Kyoto. This place of worship located on expansive grounds is considered to be amongst the most significant Zen Buddhist temples in Japan. In fact it has the distinction of being the principal temple of one of the branches of the sect known as Rinzai. Notably numerous sub-temples surround the main complex, increasing the size of the temple compound still further.
Nanzenji boasts a historical legacy which dates to the 13th century, when Emperor Kameyama constructed a retirement residence on the site, and subsequently converted the building to a Zen temple. In the years following its inception the shrine developed rapidly, but the entire site was destroyed at the time of the Muromachi Period’s civil wars. Therefore the most ancient of the buildings seen today were constructed subsequent to this episode.
Visitors to the site will initially see the huge Sanmon Gate at the entrance, which rises above the treetops. This gate was built by the reigning Tokugawa Clan to commemorate the soldiers who fell in battle at Osaka Castle in the year 1615. Visitors may climb the stairway to the balcony of the gate, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view over the sights of the city.
The temple’s Hojo was formerly the residence of the head priest and now functions as the principal hall of Nanzenji. This chamber is best known for its fascinating rock garden which is said to look like tigers and their cubs wading across water. Similarly well thought of are the artworks on the sliding doors which employ gold leaf.
Outside the building complex you will see a massive aqueduct that passes across the grounds of the temple which dates to the Meiji Period. Several pathways pass along the canal and pass into the forest surrounding the area.
The visitor will also find numerous sub-temples which are similarly interesting to explore located around the main building complex.
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