Nanzen-ji Temple

Nanzen-ji, one of the big Zen temples in Kyoto, is a headquarters of Nanzen-ji sect of Rinzai Buddhism. The temple once was the highest ranked Zen temple in Japan. O-Hojo and Ko-Hojo buildings are national treasures. Fusuma-e (Shoheki-ga) paintings in the two buildings were painted by Kano Tanyu, Kano Eitoku, and Kano Motonobu. The Zen temple is also famous for its Karesansui garden that is said to have been laid out by Kobori Enshu (1579-1647).

History of Nanzen-ji

The temple originally was a detached palace of Emperor Kameyama, which was built in the year 1264. Later he became a student of a Zen Master, Busshin Daimin Kokushi,and he dedicated the palace to Zen Buddhism in 1291.

Emperor Go-Daigo ranked Nanzen-ji and Daitoku-ji 1st among the five major temples in 1334. Other three included Tofuku-ji and Ken'nin-ji. In the year 1385 Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu ranked Nanzen-ji above the five temples so as to place Shokoku-ji the 1st among the five temples.

Main buildings were lost by fire and rebuilt in 1393 and 1447. In the year 1467, all of the buildings were reduced to ashes by fires of war and they had to wait until 1605, when Ishin Suden became the chief priest of the temple, to be able to rebuild the buildings.

How to get to Nanzen-ji

  • 34 minutes by Kyoto City Bus No. 5 from Kyoto Station to Hoshoji-machi bus stop or Nanzen-ji-Eikan-do-mae Bus stop then 5 minutes on foot, or
  • 5 minutes on foot from Keage station of subway Tozai line.

Hours and Admission

Except following: 8:40-17:00
December 1 - December 27 and January 1 - End of February: 8:40-16:30
December 28-31: Closed.
Admission ends 20 minutes before closing time.

All except following: 500 yen
High school students: 400 yen
Elementary school and junior high school students (1st to 9th graders): 300 yen
Children under school age: free

Sanmon gate:
Same amount as Hojo.


Click on a photo for full image.

Chokushi-mon gate of Nanzen-ji San-mon gate of Nanzen-ji Stairs of San-mon gate
Chokushi-mon gate that was given to the temple by Empress Meisho in 1641.
June 24, 2009
22 meters high San-mon gate that was rebuilt in 1628 by Todo Takatora, a feudal lord. He dedicated the gate for the repose of those killed in the battle of Osaka castle in 1615. Buddhist figures are on the second floor.
June 24, 2009
Steep stairs in the San-mon gate.
June 24, 2009
Verandah of the San-mon gate Hatto hall of Nanzen-ji O-genkan of Kuri
Verandah of the San-mon gate.
June 24, 2009
Hatto hall that was rebuilt in 1909.
June 24, 2009
O-genkan of Kuri.
November 26, 2005
Honbo of Nanzen-ji A room in Kuri building of Nanzen-ji O-Hojo building of Nanzen-ji
Honbo. Visitors enter here for Hojo and Ko-Hojo.
November 26, 2000
A room in Kuri building. Shishiodoshi (sozu) is seen in the garden.
November 26, 2000
O-Hojo (large Hojo) building, a national treasure. Connected to the back side of this building is Ko-Hojo (small Hojo), also a national treasure.
June 24, 2009
Hojo-teien, a Karesansui garden of Nanzen-ji Karesansui and Shoin building of Nanzen-ji The Karesansui garden of Nanzen-ji
Hojo-teien, a Karesansui garden that is said to have been laid out by Kobori Enshu sometime during Keicho era (1596-1614). The building seen beyond the wall is the Hatto hall. Seen on the right is O-Hojo.
November 26, 2005
Karesansui garden and Shoin building. On the right of the Shoin is Kuri that has the O-genkan.
November 26, 2005
The Karesansui garden.
November 26, 2005
Shakkei Nyoshin-tei garden of Nanzen-ji Rokudo-tei, a moss garden of Nanzen-ji
A hill and a couple of roofs are used as Shakkei objects.
June 24, 2009
Ko-Hojo garden that is called Nyoshin-tei.
November 26, 2005
A moss garden called Rokudo-tei.
November 26, 2005
Roofed passage Stepping stones Kyushin-tei, a tea ceremony house
A roofed passage.
November 26, 2005
Stepping stones that leads to Fushiki-an, a tea ceremony house.
June 24, 2009
A tea ceremony house called Kyushin-tei.
November 26, 2005
Nanzen-ji gaki fence Suirokaku and autumn leaves Suirokaku, an aqueduct
A bamboo fence called Nanzen-ji gaki. The house beyond the fence is Kyushin-tei.
November 26, 2005
Suirokaku and autumn leaves.
November 26, 2005
Suirokaku, an aqueduct.
June 24, 2009