Chion-in Temple is the headquarters for the sect of Buddhism called Jodo. With one of the largest wooden gates in Japan and structures designated as important cultural assets, there is plenty to see at Chion-in Temple, but actually the temple also has Seven Wonders. There are some which are quite rare, so if you happen to see them while sightseeing in Kyoto, you would be very lucky. You can search for the Seven Wonders as a family of course, or make it a day for just adults if you wish.
About Chion-in Temple in Kyoto
Honen, the founder of the Jodo Sect, spent his later years at Chion-in Temple. In the Edo Era, the head of the Tokugawa clan had the temple rebuilt with the large structures that stand today. Starting with Sanmon which is a wooden gate and is the largest structure of its kind still standing in Japan today, and other structures which have been designated as national treasures or important cultural assets, Chion-in Temple is among the grand temples. Famous for its autumn leaves and bell which is rung on the night of New Year’s Eve, it is visited by many tourists each year.
1. Nightingale Hallway
The corridor from the Miedo stretches 550 meters. It is known as the Nightingale Hallway because as you walk through the corridor it makes a small noise similar to that of a nightingale. It is said that it was made this way to alert the residents in the case of a burglar. It makes you wonder how they built those corridors to make them sound like nightingales chirping.
2. Plain Wood Coffin
At the top of the Sanmon gate are two plain wood coffins. These are the coffins of Gomi Kin’uemon and his wife. They carved themselves in wood as a sign of their determination to build a fine gate. And just as they were determined to do, they built a very fine gate. However, the construction went over budget and feeling the responsibility they decided to take their own lives. The statues are here as a memorial of the couple.
3. Umbrella Handle
If you look in the eaves at the front of Miedo, you can find an umbrella handle. There are two explanations for why the umbrella was placed there. One is that it was placed there as an amulet to protect against evil spirits by a carpenter. The other explanation is that it was placed there by a white fox as a thank you to the monk who moved the fox’s next during the construction of Miedo. Whichever explanation is true, you have to wonder why they chose an umbrella!
4. The Sparrows that Flew Away
In the Kiku no ma (Chrysanthemum Room) of the Ohojo (large guest house) are paintings on sliding paper doors by Kano Nobumasa, a famous painter from the Edo Period. Originally the painting was chrysanthemum flowers with a few sparrows above it. There is a tale that the sparrows were painted so well that they appeared to be lifelike and flew right off of the door. If you see the painting now, you will only see the flowers and the sparrows are nowhere to be seen. One has to wonder where they could have gone!
5. The Cat that Sees in Three Directions
On cedar doors in the hallway of the Ohojo is a painting of cats by Kano Nobumasa. The painting is of a mother cat protecting her kitten. It is unique because no matter where you look at the painting from , it seems that the mother cat is watching you. This is why it is known as the cat that sees in three directions. It is said to show the heart of a parent protecting its child and in turn the mercy of Buddha. When you visit Chion-in Temple, by all means, look at this mother cat from all different directions to see if she is watching you.
6． Large Rice Paddle
If you look up in the hallway from entrance to Ohojo, you will see a large rice paddle on the beam. It is 2.5 meters long, rather large for a rice paddle. You use a rice paddle to scoop rice (in Japanese scoop is sukuu) so it is said to represent Buddha’s great mercy which is to save people (save is also sukuu in Japanese). There is also a legend that this paddle was used to serve rice to soldiers at war in 1614.
7. The Cucumber Rock
In front of Kuromon (black gate) is a large rock known as the Cucumber Rock. Actually, it only vaguely resembles a cucumber, it is said that there is a path underneath this rock which leads to Nijo Castle. Do you think that is true? Another sort of strange legend about this rock is that Gozu Tenno, a deity from Yasaka Shrine, descended upon this rock and after just one night vines began to grow, flowers bloomed and cucumbers appeared. These are both just legends so it makes you wonder what the true story is. Please think about what you think happened here when you see the Cucumber Rock at Chion-in Temple.
Seven Wonders of Chion-in Temple
It has long been said that Chion-in Temple has Seven Wonders. We hope you will see them for your own eyes and see what you think. There are some of the Seven Wonders which are only open to the public at certain times, so if you happen to get to see all seven, you’re very lucky. Few people have seen all seven of them, I’m sure. Going to see the Seven Wonders with kids would be nice, but if you leave your kids at our Kids Club, you can really take your time while walking through Chion-in Temple to find the Seven Wonders.
Access to Chion-in Temple
- From JR Kyoto Station take bus 206 to Chion-in mae, walk about 5 minutes
- From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station take bus 31, 46, 201 or 203 to Chion-in mae, walk about 5 minutes
- From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station – walk about 15 minutes
- From Keihan Sanjo Station take bus 12 to Chion-in mae, walk about 5 minutes
- From Keihan Gion Shijo Station – walk about 10 minutes
- From Keihan Sanjo Station take the Kyoto Okazaki Loop bus to Chion-in mae
Address: 400 Rinka-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
If you use a taxi, please show them this,
Hours: Gate opening hours vary by month, closing time is always 4:00pm. The reception counter is open 9:00 – 3:50pm
Price: You can visit the temple grounds free of charge, but some areas have a fee to enter