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Tenryuji Temple

Japan flag. Temples & Shrines: Tenryuji

Tenryuji Temple 天龍寺

Tenryuji History | Tenryuji Access

Tenryuji Temple, Kyoto, Japan.

Tenryuji, or as it is formally known Tenryu Shiseizen-ji (天龍資聖禅寺), is the head temple of the Tenryu sect of Rinzai Zen Buddhism and ranked first of Kyoto's top five Zen temples. The other Kyoto Gozan temples are Nanzenji, Shokoku-ji, Tofukuji and Kenninji, though they have changed over time.

Tenryuji is the most important temple in the Arashiyama area of west Kyoto.

History of Tenryuji Temple

Tenryuji was created in honor of Gautama Buddha, and was founded by the shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358). In 1994, Tenryuji became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Prior to the founding of Tenryuji, the Empress Tachibana no Kachiko, who was the wife of the Emperor Saga, created a Buddhist temple named Danrin-ji on the exact same spot. In the mid-thirteenth century, however, Emperor Gosaga and his son Emperor Kameyama converted the grounds into an imperial villa.

Ashikaga Takauji later converted the villa into a temple in order to hold a memorial service for Emperor Go-daigo, for whom he had once fought as a general but later turned against. The foundation of Tenryuji by Ashikaga Takauji was meant to appease the soul of the deceased emperor.

Ashikaga's younger brother, Tadayoshi, was alleged to have had a dream about a golden dragon flying in the nearby Hozu River. "Tenryu" means "dragon of the sky."

Tenryuji Temple was enormously successful and grew to contain 150 sub-temples. Fire, however, decimated the temple in 1358, 1367, 1373, 1380, 1447, and 1467. Tenryuji was rebuilt following further destruction during the Onin War, again burned in 1815, and lost many temples and artifacts during the Hamaguri Rebellion in 1864. The buildings we see today at Tenryuji date mainly from the Meiji Period.

Tenryuji Temple, Kyoto, Japan.

Tenryuji Temple in Kyoto is famous for the beauty of its autumn maple leaves.

Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama, Kyoto.

Tatami-mat room at Tenryuji Temple looking out over a garden.

Tenryu-ji contains various Important Cultural Properties, including portraits of the temple's first head priest Muso Soseki (1275-1351); a wooden carving of Gautama Buddha; illustrations; and a garden, created by Muso Soseki, one of the oldest such landscape gardens in Kyoto, noted for its borrowed scenery effect. Muso Soseki also created the gardens at Kokedera (Moss Garden) to the south in Katsura.

The garden at Tenryuji is particularly popular in spring and fall.

Another highlight of Tenryuji Temple is its hanchi or square entrance pond filled with lotus flowers.

The Emperors Gosaga and Kageyama are both buried here.

Two sub-temples of Tenryuji Hogon-in and Kogenji only open for a few weeks in spring and autumn and can be visited on a combined ticket. Hogon-in is known for its rock and moss stroll garden as well as its fall colors.

Kogenji is also famous for its Japanese garden - a karesansui, (rock and stone) garden in the main building. The pillars of the main hall still bear the sword marks left by samurai from Choshu (present day Hagi), who practised their swordmanship here back in the 1860's.

Tenryuji Temple, Kyoto, Japan.

Tenryuji Temple in Kyoto was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.

Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama, Kyoto.

Tenryuji Temple in Arashiyama western Kyoto is located on the site of an earlier temple.

Tenryuji Access - how to get to Tenryuji Temple

Tenryuji is just two minutes from the Keifuku Line's Arashiyama Station on trains from Kitano Hakubaicho or Omiya stations. Or take a city bus to "Keifukuarashiyama," bus #28. Alternatively, Tenryuji Temple is a 7-8 minute walk from JR Saga Station on the JR San-in Main Line (Sagano Line) from Kyoto Station.

Tenryuji Temple
68 Susukinobaba-cho, Tenryuji, Saga, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto.
Tel: 075 881 1235

By bicycle from Arashiyama.

Nearby attractions in Arashiyama include Togetsukyo Bridge, Iwatayama Monkey Park, Nonomiya Shrine, Okochi Sanso, Horinji Temple, Jokakkoji Temple, Rakushisha and Adashino Nenbutsu Temple.

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