Ninnaji (ÉmśaÄŤ) is one of the many great temples in Kyoto which are listed as World Heritage Sites. It is the head temple of the Omuro School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and was founded in 888 by the reigning emperor. Over many centuries, a member of the Imperial Family used to serve as Ninnaji's head priest, and the temple was also known as Omuro Imperial Palace.
Due to the many wars and fires that ravaged Kyoto throughout its history, none of the buildings from the temple's foundation in the 9th century still survive. The oldest buildings date back to the beginning of the Edo Period in the early 1600s, including the main hall (Kondo), the Kannon Hall, the Niomon front gate, the Chumon inner gate and the five storied pagoda.
The highlight of a visit to Ninnaji is the Goten, the former residence of the head priest in the southwestern corner of the temple complex. Built in the style of an imperial palace, the graceful buildings are connected with each other by covered corridors, feature elegantly painted sliding doors (fusuma) and are surrounded by beautiful rock and pond gardens.
Ninnaji is also famous for a grove of locally cultivated, late blooming cherry trees called Omuro Cherries. Because the trees are late blooming, Ninnaji is a good place to visit towards the end of Kyoto's cherry blossom season, which is usually around mid April.
Ninnaji is a ten minute walk west of Ryoanji Temple and just a few steps from Omuro Ninnaji Station on the Keifuku Kitano Line, a small, tram like train, which connects Arashiyama with the Kitano district.
From Kyoto Station, Ninnaji Temple can be reached by direct JR bus. The bus ride takes about 30 minutes, costs 230 yen and is covered by the Japan Rail Pass, JR Kansai Area Pass, JR Kansai Wide Area Pass and a few other rail passes by JR West; however, it is not covered by the one-day pass for city buses. There are buses every 15-30 minutes.