Shoden Eigen-in Temple

Shoden Eigen-in Temple 正伝永源院

Shoden Eigen-in Temple is a sub-temple of Kenninji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.

Shoden Eigen-in Temple is located in the historic Gion district, a little north of Kenninji and close to both the popular Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizudera.

Shoden Eigen-in is famous for its beautiful Zen garden, especially in the Kyoto autumn leaves viewing season in October and November and for its azaleas in late spring and early summer.

Zen Garden at Shoden Eigen-in Temple, Kyoto.
Zen Garden at Shoden Eigen-in Temple, Kyoto

Shoden Eigen-in History

Shoden Eigen-in was established by the merger of Shoden-in and Eigen-an temples.

Shoden-in Temple was founded in 1264 by the Zen priest Gio Shonin but fell in to ruin after the Onin War which ravaged Kyoto between 1467 and 1477. The temple was restored in 1618 by Oda Urakusai, a younger brother of the warlord, Oda Nobunaga, and a student of the tea master, Sen-no-Rikyu.

Eigen-an was founded a century later in 1346 by the Zen monk, Mugai Ninko, and was patronized by the military elites during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods of Japanese history. During the Shinbutsu bunri (separation of Shinto and Buddhism) and haibutsu-kishaku (abolition of Buddhism) drives of the early Meiji Period, when many Buddhist temples were reorganized, reduced in size or otherwise seized, Shoden-in and Eigen-an were merged to become Shoden Eigen-in.

Zen Garden at Shoden Eigen-in Temple, Kyoto.
Fall colors at Shoden Eigen-in Temple, Kyoto

Shoden Eigen-in Temple Buildings

The main hall of Shoden Eigen-in Temple is noted for its fine fusuma (partition) paintings. Fusuma are sliding rectangular panels which move from side to side to redefine spaces within a room, acting as doors or room partitions.

The paintings we see today are by the Edo Period master, Kano Sanraku and Hosokawa Morihiro, a former Prime Minister of Japan, who retired from politics to take up the life of a potter and painter in Yugawara, a small onsen resort in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Jo-an, the tea house in the garden, is a replica of the original constructed by Oda Urakusai in the 17th century and sold to Mitsui in Tokyo in 1901. The original can now be seen in the Urakuen Garden in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, in central Japan, a short distance north of the large industrial city of Nagoya.

With Christian influence on the rise among both the aristocracy and common people in the early 17th century, Urakusai is believed to have become a closet Christian. There is a possible link between his adopted Christian name of "Joao" and the name of the teahouse Jo-an.

Replica of the Jo-an tea house now in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture.
Replica of the Jo-an tea house by Oda Urakusai now in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture
Shusei fusuma painting by Hosokawa Morihiro at Shoden Eigen-in Temple in Gion, Kyoto, Japan.
Shusei fusuma painting by Hosokawa Morihiro at Shoden Eigen-in Temple in Gion

Shoden Eigen-in Temple Paintings & Screens

Kano Sanraku's most famous work at Shoden Eigen-in is the spiritual Renro-zu, which expresses the transience of life.

Hosokawa Morihiro's Shusei represents a view of autumn and distant mountains.

Shusei fusuma painting by Hosokawa Morihiro at Shoden Eigen-in Temple in Gion, Kyoto, Japan.
Shusei fusuma painting by Hosokawa Morihiro at Shoden Eigen-in Temple in Gion, Kyoto

Shoden Eigen-in Temple Access

586 Komatsu-cho
Kyoto 605 0811
Tel: 075 531 0200

Open 10 am to 4pm. Entrance 600 yen.

Buses #100 (Raku Bus), #12, #46, #202, #206 and #207 all pass by Gion. The nearest railway station is Gion-Shijo on the Keihan Line to Demachiyanagi Station.

A visit to Shoden Eigen-in can be combined with a visit to Maruyama Park, Ryozen Kannon, Kodaiji Temple, Yasaka Jinja and Kiyomizudera. The Okazaki museum area and Heian Shrine are to the north across Sanjo dori.

Painted fusuma sliding door, Shoden Eigen-in Temple, Gion, Kyoto, Japan.
Painted fusuma sliding door at Shoden Eigen-in Temple in Gion, Kyoto
Large stone lanterns at Shoden Eigen-in, Kyoto.
Large stone lanterns at Shoden Eigen-in, a sub-temple of Kenninji Temple in Kyoto

Accommodation in Gion

Gion is one of the most popular places in Kyoto to stay on any vacation to the ancient capital of Japan. Some of the accommodation options on offer in Gion are traditional Japanese guest houses, ryokan or minshuku, a few of them converted machiya (Edo Period wooden merchant houses). They offer a traditional Japanese stay, that is sleeping in futon mattresses on tatami (woven straw) floors and sharing a hot tub. (Note: Guests remove their shoes before entering).

Recently to cater to modern, Western tastes many of the guest houses have become holiday homes or apartments: Japanese in spirit, decor and interior furnishings but Western in usage with beds, Wifi and attached showers.

Some recommended places to stay in Gion include Hana-Touro Hotel Gion, with Japanese-style restaurant, concierge desk, plus kimono and bicycle hire, Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion, which features an on-site restaurant, Tempura Endo Yasaka, serving Japanese cuisine including tempura and sushi, Iori Machiya Stay, offering machiya accommodation in various locations in Kyoto and Yuzuya Ryokan, a luxurious 5-star traditional inn with antique furnishings and seasonal ikebana arrangements. All rooms include tatami floors and traditional futon bedding.

See a full listing of accommodation in Kyoto's Gion district.

Gion Map

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