Kenninji Temple is a gem of a temple hidden in plain sight, right in the heart of Gion. Many walk through the grounds as a short cut without stepping inside to see what is behind the big wooden doors. And they don’t know what they are missing!
Established in 1202 this is the oldest zen temple in Kyoto. Take off your shoes at the door and get ready to slide along the wooden floors and be dazzled by treasured works of art and impressive gardens. You can see sliding door paintings dating from the as far back as the 15th century as well as modern works on display. The highlight for me is the moss garden in the back named “the garden of the sound of the tide” but there is no shortage of impressive features at this temple complex.
After exploring the view of the art and gardens from the inside you can put on slippers to visit a real tea ceremony house on display in the back giving you an idea of how a traditional tea ceremony would have been held. The larger tea house sometimes opens to the public too and serves a great cup of matcha. This tea house was built by the tea master named Sen no Rikyu a favourite of the shogun and warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Entering the main hall, slowly look up to see two huge dragons painted on the ceiling. These were painted in 2002 to mark their 800th anniversary. These are the most impressive works of art I have ever seen in Japan covering 160m and taking one artist over two years to complete.
One of the reasons I love this temple is the rich variety of art and gardens both historic and modern. Add rich heritage and a more peaceful setting than some of the bigger temples and it feels that little bit more Zen.
Hours: 10am-4:30pm (4:00pm in winter)
Cost: 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for junior high and younger
Official website: http://www.kenninji.jp/english/index.html
Let us take you there on a guided experience. Click here for bike tours and here for a walk & taxi experience.
My name is Niall. Canadian born, Irish in heritage, I now call Kyoto, Japan home and I absolutely love it here. Founder of Kyoto Fun and Japan Adventures, both are dedicated to making for a pleasant introduction to Japan for first time visitors and sharing our knowledge of this great city and country.