Translated by Jelena Kitamura
Introducing Nanzenji - The Highest-Ranking Zen Temple In Japan
Nanzenji is a Buddhist temple located in Sakyo ward in Kyoto and is the most important Zen temple with the highest status in Japan. Read about its grandiose architecture, stunning gardens, Lake Biwa Canal, and other spots, events and such down below.
Written by Yumiko Delor
What Is Nanzenji?
Nanzenji is a Buddhist temple that belongs to the Rinzai School and is located in Sakyo ward of the city of Kyoto. Rinzai School is one of the sects of Zen Buddhism that was created in Japan, after a Zen priest from China, Rinzai, came to Japan. Perhaps the most well-known feature of this temple is its beautiful gardens, especially the Japanese rock garden and the traditional Japanese garden where you can enjoy the charming sights of the autumn maple leaves.
Nanzenji was founded in 1291 by the retired Emperor Kameyama. The term “ho-o” infers that the ruling emperor has abdicated the throne and has entered a temple. As this temple was the first Zen Buddhist temple that was built in Japan by the order of a ruler, it ranks the highest in terms of historical importance and has high religious and social status among Zen temples.
Today, we have decided to share some useful information about access, attractions, and other important points regarding Nanzenji.
Basic Facts about Nanzenji
You can visit this temple in spring and summer starting from March 1st to November 30th from 8:40-17:00, and during winter, from December 1st to the end of February from 8:40-16:30. Mind that the temple isn’t opened for visitors (the usual visits) from December the 28th until the 31st.
It is free of charge to enter the grounds of the temple, but there is admission fee required for the following areas:
Nanzenin: adults 300 yen, high school students 250 yen, elementary and junior high school students 150 yen
Sanmon: adults 500 yen, high school students 400 yen, elementary and junior high school students 300 yen
Hojo Garden: adults 500 yen, high school students 400 yen, elementary and junior high school students 300 yen
How to Get to Nanzenji
Catch the JR Tokaido shinkansen from Tokyo Station, and get off at Kyoto Station. It takes around two hours and 15 minutes by Nozomi shinkansen to get to Kyoto, and the fare for the non-reserved seat is 13,080 yen (one way).
After you’ve arrived at Kyoto Station, the most useful transportation means to get to you the temple is the city bus. You can take either the Kyoto Bus No.5 to get to Nanzenji-Eikando bus stop, or the Kyoto Bus No.100 to get to Higashi-Tennocho bus stop. It should take around 34 minutes, and the fare is 230 yen. It will take you around ten minutes on foot to get to Nanzenji from either bus stop.
If you choose the subway to find your way to the temple, first you need to board the Karasuma Subway Line, get off at Karasuma-Oike Station (after a six minute ride), change trains to the Tozai Subway Line, and get off at Keage Station (after approximately seven minutes). All that is left is to head to the temple along the same ten minute stroll.
The train ride from Umeda Station to Kawaramachi Station via the Hankyu Railway lasts around 43 minutes, and the ticket is 400 yen.
After arriving at Shijo-Kawaramachi, hop on the Kyoto Bus No. 5, No.32, or No. 203, and get off at Higashi-Tennocho bus stop, or Nanzenji-Eikando bus stop (only via route No.5). The time required is about 16 minutes, and the fare is 230 yen. Also, you can ride the Kyoto Okazaki loop bus which will take you to Nanzenji/Lake Biwa Canal Museum (Sosuikinenkan)/East Gate of the City Zoo (Dobutsuen-Higashimonmae).