Chishaku-In and Sanjusangendo

7 Jun

Chishaku-In and Sanjusangendo:

Kyoto’s Most Famous Garden and Temple

It’s funny, but when they told me I would be visiting Kyoto’s most famous gardens; somehow my brain was picturing a type of botanical garden such as you would see in the U.S.  You know, open rows upon rows of flowers, all arranged carefully around small stone water fountains.  Suffice to say, I had it more or less completely wrong (kind of like when they said I was going to a monkey zoo and instead took me hiking to the top of a mountain to see them in their natural habitat mid-forest).

The Chishaku-In garden is actually rather small and compact, but what there is of it is stunning.  Carefully interwoven around some lovely temple buildings and tucked up against one of the many mountains in the area, the gardens consist of small raked-sand zen gardens, ponds, lazy fish, and many flowers artfully scattered inbetween.  The temple buildings are mostly open and covered so you can stretch out and relax while watching the little koi swim by.

Another amazing aspect of the temple itself is the beautiful painted walls and doors. They were carefully designed with lovely paintings depicting lilies, birds, and trees of every kind.  Although many in the temple have been replaced over the years, the museum next door houses the originals; some dating hundreds upon hundreds of years ago.   It is just mind-boggling the person who thought this up.  I wish I could pain half that well!

Definitely a must-see; even if it wasn’t quite what I expected.  One of the best parts is the fact that the Sanjusangendo is right next door.  While we are not allowed to take photos inside of the temple, I have attached pictures of the postcards I bought.  Sanjusangendo is an amazing place; perhaps one of  my favorite so far.  According to the legend, this man became a Kannon (basically a kind of god in Buddhism, but there aren’t gods in Buddhism so it is kind of hard to explain). The idea is that he reached enlightenment and arose to the heavens. Now he looks over humans and takes away their pain and suffering.  He supposedly has 1000 arms and extends to all 25 planes.  There are hundreds of human-sized replications of his figure in this temple, along with a 2-story sized buddha statue. Each statue has 42 arms arranged in 25 rows to reflect the 1000 total arms.  The Kannons are guarded by statues of various figures adopted from Hindu religion (i.e. Brahma). They believe these aren’t gods; rather they are guardians of the Kannon.  It is pretty awesome!

Well Worth the time and Effort!  


There are 2 ways to get there. Some also recommend walking form Kyoto station, but it’s a far piece and not much to see in the process.  Better option is to either take the Keihan Line to Shichijo Station (5 minute walk from there); or take the bus 101, 206, or 208 to the Hakubusukan-Sanjusangendo-mae bus stop.  Either way will work!  

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