Japan Kyoto Gion

Kenninji Temple

The oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.

Photo of Kenninji Temple, Japan (Kennin-ji, Daio-en (Garden) -1 (February 2017) by Tetsuhiro Terada)

Founded in 1202, Kennin-ji Temple is a pivotal site for Zen Buddhism and Japanese art, located within Kyoto’s vibrant Higashiyama district. Renowned for its Zen gardens and cultural artefacts, including a reproduction of the Fujin and Raijin painting, the temple offers a retreat steeped in spiritual and artistic heritage.

About Kenninji Temple

Kennin-ji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, was founded by the Buddhist monk Eisai, who is also credited with introducing the practice of tea drinking to Japan. From its early 13th-century beginnings, the temple has played a key role in the development of Japanese culture, particularly by fostering Zen philosophy and its expression through art. Its association with the Rinzai sect, one of the three main sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism, underscores its religious significance as a center for meditation and practice.

The temple’s main attractions include a reproduction of the Fujin and Raijin painting and the Dharma Hall, home to a statue of Eisai and the impressive twin dragons mural on the ceiling, painted in 2002 to commemorate the temple’s 800th anniversary. The Zen garden provides a tranquil atmosphere in contrast to the nearby bustling Gion district.

Kennin-ji’s historical significance is also reflected in its collection of notable artworks, including pieces by Tamura Soryu and Hashimoto Kansetsu. Architectural features such as the Hōjō (Abbot’s Quarters) and the Chokushimon (Imperial Messenger Gate) are testament to the temple’s storied past. After multiple reconstructions due to fires and other events, the current structures mostly date from the Edo period.

Visitors to Kennin-ji can explore the complex gate system and the Zen garden, which exemplify Zen landscaping. The temple grounds provide a setting for reflective strolls, offering a sense of calm within the energetic Southern Higashiyama district.

Continuing its role as a site for Zen Buddhism, Kennin-ji allows visitors to embark on a historical journey through its halls and gardens and to participate in meditation sessions, immersing themselves in the spiritual traditions of Zen.

Getting There the easiest way to reach Kenninji Temple

KH 39

 Keihan Main Line

 5-10 minute walk (600m)
HK 86

Hankyu Kyoto-kawaramachi
 Hankyu Kyoto Main Line + 1 more

 5-10 minute walk (800m)
T 11

Sanjō Keihan
 Kyoto Tozai Line

 10-20 minute walk (1.1km)
K 09

 Karasuma Line

 10-20 minute walk (1.6km)

Around Kenninji Temple

Kenninji Temple

Buddhist Temple in Kyoto

closed Seasonal Dates


建仁寺, 京都

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Updated 13 Mar 2024 • Report an error

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