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Nanzenji Temple (T), whose spacious grounds are located at the base of Kyoto's forested Higashiyama mountains, is one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan. It is the head temple of one of the schools within the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism and includes multiple subtemples, that make the already large complex of temple buildings even larger.

The history of Nanzenji dates back to the mid 13th century, when the Emperor Kameyama built his retirement villa at the temple's present location and later converted it into a Zen temple. After its founding, Nanzenji grew steadily, but its buildings were all destroyed during the civil wars of the late Muromachi Period (1333-1573). The oldest of the current buildings was built after that period.

Nanzenji's central temple grounds are open to the public free of charge, but separate fees apply for entering temple buildings and subtemples. Visitors will first come across Nanzenji's massive Sanmon entrance gate, which extends over the treetops. The gate was constructed in 1628 by the ruling Tokugawa clan for soldiers who died in the siege of Osaka Castle in 1615. It is possible to climb up to the gate's balcony, from where the view extends across the city. Behind the gate is the Hatto (Dharma Hall), a large lecture hall which cannot be entered by the public.

Past the Hatto is the Hojo, the former head priest's residence and Nanzenji's main hall. The Hojo is most famous for its rock garden whose rocks are said to resemble tigers and cubs crossing through water. Also highly regarded are the paintings on sliding doors (fusuma), which include a more realistic depiction of tigers on gold leaf. Visitors enter the Hojo building complex through the former temple kitchen (kuri), where they can also find a small tea room to their right with a view of a miniture waterfall.

Outside the Hojo visitors will come across a rather odd sight: a large brick aqueduct that passes through the temple grounds. Built during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the aqueduct is part of a canal system that was constructed to carry water and goods between Kyoto and Lake Biwa in neighbouring Shiga Prefecture.

Nanzenin Temple is one of Nanzenji's subtemples that is open to visitors. It is located just behind the aqueduct on the former location of Emperor Kameyama's original retirement villa and includes a mausoleum of the emperor, a temple hall and a garden centered around a pond which becomes particularly attractive in autumn.

At the outskirts of the Nanzenji temple complex, Konchi-in Temple is another subtemple open to the public. The temple was founded in 1400 but moved to its present location in the early 1600s. Within Konchi-in there are a variety of buildings, fusuma (sliding door) paintings, rock gardens, a tea house and a small subsidiary of the Toshogu Shrine.

A few steps away is the Tenjuan Temple, which is also open to the public. It is a small subtemple dedicated to the Zen master who served Emperor Kameyama in his religious studies. Tenjuan has a main hall, gate and study which date back to the early 17th century. Tenjuan is noteworthy for its two gardens, a rock garden and a pond garden, which are particularly attractive during autumn when they are illuminated in the evenings. Autumn colors are usually best in mid to late November.

Getting there and around

Nanzenji is a 5-10 minute walk from the nearest subway station, Keage Station on the Tozai Line (about 20 minutes, 260 yen from Kyoto Station by subway via Karasuma-Oike Station), or a 5-10 minute walk from the nearest bus stop, Nanzenji-Eikando-michi bus stop (35 minutes, 230 yen from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus number 5).

Nanzenji is also located only a short walk from the southern end of the Philosopher's Path, while Ginkakuji Temple is at the northern end.

How to get to and around Kyoto

Hours and Fees

Sanmon Gate

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Closed

Admission

Hojo

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Closed

Admission

Nanzenin

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Closed

Admission

Konchi-in Temple

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Closed

Admission

Tenjuan Temple

Hours

Closed

Admission

Hotels around Kyoto

Top rated in Kyoto
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    • Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Kyoto, this traditional Japanese guest house features free Wi-Fi and a free public computer. Shichijo Onmae bus stop is 3 minutesf walk away. A seating area and shared bathroom are provided with each room at Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS. Free toiletries are provided and blankets are available upon request. Select rooms have a garden view. A shared living area and bicycles are available for guestsf use during their stay at this Kyoto Guesthouse Compass. Access to the shared kitchen is available upon request. The guest house is 4.5 km from Imperial Palace and 2.2 km from Kyoto Station. Nijo Castle and Toji Castle are within a 30 minutesf bus ride away.
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    • Gallery Nozawa Inn
      Budget-friendly
      Gallery Nozawa Inn offers accommodation in Kyoto, 25 minutes on foot from JR Kyoto Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. Every room includes a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. Each room is equipped with a private toilet, and bathrooms are shared. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hairdryer. There is luggage storage space at the property. Guests can sample Japanese-style breakfast featuring seasonal ingredients. There is a public bathhouse located a 10-minute walk away. Nijo Castle is 2.4 km from Gallery Nozawa Inn, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.4 km from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 36 km away.
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    • Guest House Oumi
      Budget-friendly
      Well set in the centre of Kyoto, Guest House Oumi provides air-conditioned rooms, a garden, free WiFi and a shared lounge. This 2-star guest house offers a shared kitchen and room service. The property is non-smoking and is located 1.2 km from Nijo Castle. All units include a shared bathroom, free toiletries and bed linen. A continental breakfast is available daily at the guest house. Guest House Oumi offers a terrace. Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km from the accommodation, while Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall is 2.9 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 46 km from Guest House Oumi.
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    • Hotel Muso
      Mid-range
      Located in the centre of Kyoto, less than 1 km from Gion Shijo Station, Hotel Muso provides air-conditioned rooms and free WiFi. This 3-star hotel offers a concierge service and luggage storage space. The property is non-smoking and is situated less than 1 km from Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall. Guest rooms at the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV and a safety deposit box. Each room has a coffee machine and a private bathroom with a bidet and free toiletries, while selected rooms come with a kitchen equipped with a stovetop. At Hotel Muso rooms come with bed linen and towels. The accommodation offers 3-star accommodation with a hot tub. Popular points of interest near Hotel Muso include Sanjusangen-do Temple, Samurai Kembu Kyoto and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from the hotel.
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    • GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station
      Luxury
      Featuring 4-star accommodation, GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station is situated in Kyoto, 1.1 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto and 2.1 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple. With a shared lounge, the 4-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The property is 2.7 km from the city centre and 1.1 km from Kyoto Station. All rooms are fitted with a fridge, microwave, a kettle, a bidet, free toiletries and a desk. At the hotel the rooms include bed linen and towels. GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station provides a laundry service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Languages spoken at the 24-hour front desk include English, Japanese, Korean and Filipino. Tofuku-ji Temple is 3 km from the accommodation, while Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall is 3.2 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 42 km from GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station.
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    • Kyono Mori Yurinsha
      Mid-range
      Featuring 3-star accommodation, Kyono Mori Yurinsha is set in Kyoto, 1.7 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple and 1 km from Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, room service and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi. The property is 1.1 km from Gion Shijo Station, and within 1.7 km of the city centre. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, free toiletries and a desk. Featuring a private bathroom with a bath and a hairdryer, rooms at the inn also have a city view. At Kyono Mori Yurinsha all rooms have bed linen and towels. A ? la carte, continental or vegetarian breakfast can be enjoyed at the property. The accommodation provides an ironing service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Popular points of interest near Kyono Mori Yurinsha include Kiyomizu-dera Temple, TKP Garden City Kyoto and Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from the inn.
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    • BenTen Residences
      Luxury
      BenTen Residences offer a Japanese machiya accommodation in the heart of Higashiyama, Kyoto. Yasaka Shrine is 7 minutes on foot, while Kiyomizu Temple is a 14-minute stroll. BenTen Residences was featured as 1 of the Top 10 vacation homes in 2017 by Dwell. Free WiFi access is provided throughout the entire property. Coming with heated flooring, the accommodation features a Western bedroom and two Japanese-style rooms with tatami (woven-straw) flooring and futon bedding. There are also a living area and kitchenette. Guests will also find a bath with a view of little garden and 2 toilets. For an additional fee, the concierge service is available to create bespoke itineraries and assist guests with arranging cultural experiences, restaurant reservations and airport shuttle. Car and bicycle rental can also be arranged. Gion District is a 7-minute walk from BenTen Residences, while Heian Shrine is an 8-minute drive away. JR Kyoto Station is 20 minutes by car. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 38.6 km from BenTen Residences and Kansai International Airport is 80 km.
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    • Nagi Kyoto Shijo
      Luxury
      Offering air-conditioned rooms in the Nakagyo Ward district of Kyoto, Nagi Kyoto Shijo is 1.4 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and room service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The rooms include a balcony. At the hotel, the rooms have a wardrobe. At Nagi Kyoto Shijo all rooms have a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Nijo Castle is 1.8 km from Nagi Kyoto Shijo, while TKP Garden City Kyoto is 2.6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 47 km from the hotel.
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    • Ryokan Shimizu
      Budget-friendly
      About a 7-minute walk from JR Kyoto Train Station and a 3-minute walk to Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple, Ryokan Shimizu is a non-smoking property that provides air-conditioned Japanese rooms with free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom. Rental bicycles are available at an additional charge. Guests at Shimizu Ryokan can experience traditional Japanese-style sleeping arrangements, with futon bedding on a tatami (woven-straw) floor. Rooms include a TV, a fridge and a tea maker. The en suite bath has toiletries. Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple is a 5-minute walk away, while Gojo Subway Station is a 10-minute walk. Sanjusangen-do Temple is 2 km away. On-site parking is possible, for a fee. Housed in a traditional gmachiya-zukurih building, the hotel includes a small garden and a hot bath that can be reserved for private use.
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    • Hostel Sui Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      In a prime location in Kyoto, Hostel Sui Kyoto provides air-conditioned rooms, a shared lounge, free WiFi and a terrace. The property is located 1.2 km from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, 1.8 km from Kinkaku-ji Temple and 2.4 km from Kyoto Imperial Palace. Private parking is available on site. The capsule hotel features certain units that include a safety deposit box, and every room is fitted with a shared bathroom with a bidet and a hairdryer. At Hostel Sui Kyoto the rooms are fitted with bed linen and towels. Nijo Castle is 2.7 km from the accommodation, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 3.9 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from Hostel Sui Kyoto.
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