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Genko-an, Kyoto: A Temple With Two Windows Of The Japanese Spirit

genkoan temple

Translated by Takuya Erik Watanabe

Written by Anna Namikawa

Kyoto 2020.08.01 Bookmark

Genko-an, a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, allows visitors to reflect upon themselves with its two distinctly-shaped windows, symbolizing enlightenment and delusion, bloodied ceiling boards from centuries ago, and other treasures. Read about this special temple and how to enjoy a visit.

Genko-an Temple in Kyoto - See the Two Windows and the Bloodied Ceiling

genkoan in kyoto

Genko-an in Takagamine, Kyoto provides an experience different from the standard trip of Japan. This centuries-old temple was built in 1694 and is famous for multiple features, including its bloodied ceiling board and two distinctly-shaped windows: the window of enlightenment and the window of delusion

This quiet temple is separated from the bustle of Kinkakuji and Kiyomizudera temples. It is a place you may want to visit if you feel that you've lost sight and want to regain perspective.

genkoan chitenjo

The mysterious, bloodied ceiling boards ("chiten jo" in Japanese) pictured above were taken from a battle in 1600 at Fushimi Castle, and incorporated into the ceiling at Genko-an and at other locations in Kyoto. If you visit in-person, you can see the faint shapes of footprints and a handprint.

Reflect on Yourself: The Two Large Windows


As mentioned earlier, another distinguishing feature of Genko-an is the windows of the main hall. They are the circular Satori no Mado ("Window of Enlightenment") and the square-shaped Mayoi no Mado ("Window of Delusion").


The Window of Enlightenment represents Zen and the practice of enlightened ideas), and the circle implies the macrocosm.

window of delusion

Photo by Pixta
The Window of Delusion symbolizes human life and its imperfections, like aging, illness, and the general struggles of living.

Visitors can sit in front of the two windows on the tatami and listen to the sound of the tree leaves and the chirping of birds. The calm atmosphere will beckon you to sit here peacefully, reflecting on both the past and the future.

The Peaceful Kyoto-style Garden at Genko-an


You can also admire a beautiful Japanese garden during your visit.


This is the "Karesansui" garden in the back. Karesansui is a type of garden in which the landscape is created by using mainly rocks and sand. Even the shiny floor seems to be part of the scene.

Historical Cultural Assets at Genkoan


At Genko-an, you can have a look at some valuable cultural assets of Kyoto and Japan.

The artist, Sekkei Yamaguchi, lived between the late-17th century to the mid-18th century. He was famous for his fusuma-e, drawings on fusuma (traditional Japanese sliding doors). These sliding doors can be seen here.


This Yakusugi Byobu, a folding screen that uses wood from a cedar tree with an estimated age of 3,000 years.

A Notebook of Thought


Pictured above is a notebook that anyone who visits Genko-an can write in. The words on the cover, "Tsurezure naru mama ni" mean "As one pleases." It is a notebook where you can put down whatever thoughts you have at the moment.

You can also read messages that visitors before you left behind.

Genko-an Temple - A Peaceful Visit for Self-Reflection


Genko-an is a temple that people tend to visit at a milestone or turning point in their life. The temple is affiliated with the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism, in which one reaches enlightenment through training and meditation. Thus, the whole building's architecture is per philosophical principles into a space suitable for meditation and reflection.

It's stunningly beautiful during the autumn foliage season, but is ideal for visiting any time of the year. Those wanting to see the temple when fewer people are around should visit on a weekday and outside of the fall season.


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Main image by Pixta

Kyoto Travel Guide

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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