Having spent time at the Goten complex at Laid Back Ninna-Ji, a mellower version of myself emerged to peer through the Chu-mon Gate at Ninna-Ji Temple in Western Kyoto. Ninna ji is well known for it’s late flowering cherry blossom trees.
What You Will Find in This Post
Ninna ji is the head temple for the Shingon Sect of Japanese Buddhism. It was founded in 888 AD by Emperor Uda. Until 1869 it had a succession of Priests who were sons of the current Ruling Emperor. Uda was the first Monzeki or Imperial Priest.
The temple was destroyed in the Onin War in 1467. 150 years later Ninna-ji piggy backed on the rebuilding of Kyoto’s Imperial Palace, receiving additional funding.
Kyoto didn’t recover from the Onin War till mid-Sixteenth Century and has remained unscathed since then. It was strategically omitted from the bombing on Japan in WWII.
The buildings surviving today are 17th Century.
Omuro Sakura Trees
I was feeling so Zen in fact that after walking through the Chu-mon gate, I failed to photograph the Cherry Blossom trees, even as we stood discussing their special dwarf variety.
Ninna-Ji’s Omuro Sakura trees, flower later than the larger varieties by a full two weeks – a bonus for visitors missing the major flowering of cherry blossoms in Kyoto.
As we were there in Autumn they weren’t impressive looking at all.
An energetic river of kids on excursion broke the spell. Kyoto temples are full of happy students but these were the youngest by far. Their business like demeanour made me smile.
Ninna-Ji Temple Buildings
The Five Storey Pagoda
The 36.18 m tall pagoda built in 1624, peaks over the top of the tallest trees. Having a central pillar and the flexibility of timber, the Pagoda has resisted damage from earthquakes.
The five Buddha divinities are enshrined inside and it is not usually opened to the public. It is a gorgeous building to view from the outside in Autumn and I imagine it would be just as beautiful with a covering of snow.
On the rare occasions that it is open to the public there is a charge to enter.
This was the Pagoda that featured as borrowed landscape in the Goten Complex Garden earlier in the day.
Autumn colours frame the Pagoda nicely.
The Kondo – Main (Prayer) Hall – Omuro School of Shingon Buddhism.
Built at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto in 1613 it was shifted here in 1637.
Take the short-cut at the back of this Pagoda to Kyushu Miojin (Shinto Shrine on the temple grounds) with the Haiden Hall of Worship out front. It is pleasant to wander the pathways at will without entering the shrine or hall of worship.
Kyushu Miojin is the pink building at the rear. Haiden Hall is the small building at the front.
The Kyozo houses the Volumes of Sutra (Buddhist texts).
This important building was built at the same time (17th Century) as the Pagoda and Nio-Mon gate.
Goshuin – seal stamps
It is common-place in Japan, to collect a momento from every Temple visited. If you are local, or are on a pilgrimage, you might have a goshuin-chō (a special book for this purpose) and you will be asked to produce it.
I didn’t have a book but could purchase a card (300 yen). The temple calligrapher pre-paints the words Ninna-Ji over the red temple seal on the card and then personalises it by painting on the date.
Omikuji (fortunes) are a common sight at Kyoto Shrines, where they flutter like doll’s dresses on wash day.
It is wise to pocket a positive Omikuji for good luck – but as for those not so good or plain bad luck ones – they get left behind on a trellis for the universe to deal with – it’s a win/win situation really.
Omikuji (fortunes) left for the Universe.
The following two photographs give an insight into just how large the Ninna-Ji compound is.
The first looks from the back of the property toward the pink Chu-mon Gate situated mid-way in the temple complex.
The next is taken just through the Chu-mon gate looking toward the Nio-mon gate at the entrance.
Being an uninhibited photographer in Kyoto is easy. I’m sure it would be possible to dangle from a tree to get the perfect shot without causing a ripple.
I adore the way Japanese people pose for photos – they are such pros.
Visit the very compact (that’s just how we like them) Reihokan Museum, a repository of National Treasures. It houses gob-smackingly old scrolled papers, scriptures and statues. I don’t recall English Descriptions and Photography is not allowed. Nevertheless, the displays are intriguing.
As the museum only opens for two months in Spring and two in Autumn we were extremely lucky to see the treasures.
But I really want to show you was this stunning statue I found at the end of a tiny lane outside the museum.
This Statue of Kongoke Bosatsu, a Flower Bodhisvattva was enshrined in 1981 to mark 1050 year anniversary of the death of Emperor Udo, who founded Ninna-Ji in 888 on the orders of Emperor Koko.
And again because it is simply stunning.
We wandered the grounds with no Agenda but I suggest taking a map of the grounds, or check one on your smart phone while there to make sure you don’t miss experiences like throwing water over the Mizukake-fudoson.
HERE is a comprehensive listing.
Other Kyoto temples near Ninna-ji
After visiting Ninna-Ji walk to another two temples in the area – Ryoan-Ji and Kinkaku-Ji.
Mount Jo-ju Pilgrimage Walk
Allow time (two hours) to take the (condensed) pilgrimage walk on the mountain behind Ninna-Ji. The easy trail features 88 temples with some views over Kyoto City. It mimics Japan’s most famous pilgrimage route (1200km) on the Japanese Island of Shikoku.
Ninnaji Temple Stay
Sleep on Futons laid out on Tatami Matting and after a hearty breakfast attend morning prayers with only Temple guests and monks. Bathing is communal. Early Risers only. Prayers are in the Kondo at 6 a.m. or 6.30 a.m. depending on the season. Here is the Link.
Ninna ji Opening Hours
- Mar/Nov 9 am – 5 pm
- Dec/Feb 9 am – 4.30 pm
- Last tickets sold half-hour before closing
Budget Travel Tips for Ninna-ji.
Goshuin (momento) 300 Yen
Museum Entry 500 Yen
Goten Complex 500 Yen
Past the Chumon Gate has a fee charged during Cherry Blossom Season
Entrance to Mt. Joju Pilgrimage trail is free outside of Cherry Blossom Season.
Subject to the above the whole compound is free to walk around and view the buildings from the outside.
This post is linked to Budget Travelers Sandbox for Travel Photo Thursday.