Jun. 15, 2017 UPDATE

Ninna-ji Temple is the most relaxing World Heritage Site in Kyoto

Ninna-ji Temple in Kyoto is a calm place known for its cherry blossoms, beatiful Japanese garden, and its relations with the Imperial Family.

Ninna-ji Temple is has a long and distinguished history. The temple was founded by the 59th emperor of Japan, Emperor Uda, in AD 888. From this time until the late Edo period in 1867, for almost 1000 years, members of the Imperial Family served at the temple. The temple has always been loved for its Omuro Sakura, which are the latest blooming cherry trees in Kyoto. 

Maybe the best part about Ninna-ji Temple is how big it is. This means that there is really a lot to see at the temple and that you don’t have to worry about the crowds. This is why we at Sharing Kyoto consider Ninna-ji Temple to be the most relaxing World Heritage Site in Kyoto, or maybe even the whole of Japan!ji Temple is how big it is. This means that there is really a lot to see at the temple and that you don’t have to worry about the crowds. This is why we at Sharing Kyoto consider Ninna-ji Temple to be the most relaxing World Heritage Site in Kyoto, or maybe even the whole of Japan!

The entrance to Ninna-ji Temple

Niomon Gate

When visiting Ninna-ji Temple, this huge 18.7-meter tall Niomon Gate is the first thing that you see as you approach it. This gate is one of the big three gates in Kyoto besides the ones at Chion-in and Nanzen-ji temples. The gate is a designated Important Cultural Property of Japan, and the appearance of the gate made in the pure Japanese wayo style tells you about the importance of Ninna-ji Temple.

2Kongorikishi statues

On both the left and right side of the gate you can see a Kongorikishi statue. These Kongorikishi statues are protectors of Buddhism, and one with an open mouth is called the Agyo statue, while the one with the closed mouth is called the Ungyo statue. The gate is called Niomon, the gate of two kings, because of these two statues.

Highlight No. 1: Goten Temple Complex

The Goten, meaning an important residence, is made up of seven temple buildings, such as Shinden and Reimeiden, and the Hokutei and Nantei gardens, and a tea house. The residence of Emperor Uda used to be here, and for this reason the Goten Temple Complex is sometimes called the “Old Omuro Imperial Palace.” There is a 500 yen entrance fee to the Goten Temple Complex, but the beautiful garden of the temple is something definitely worth seeing. Taking photos inside the Goten Temple Comples is allowed, so remember to take pictures of the Five-Storied Pagoda you can see from the garden, and make this temple visit a lasting memory.

After entering through the Niomon Gate, you see this path going up to the central Chumon Gate, but the recommended course of action is to first go left to the Goten Temple Complex.

The entrance to the Goten Temple Complex is this Honbo Omotemon Gate on the left side from the Niomon Gate. To enter the complex you need to first buy an entrance ticket at the ticket counter in front of the gate.

After going through the Honbo Omotemon Gate you get to see the temple buildings. Wearing shoes inside the temple complex is not allowed so put your shoes in a plastic bag provided at the entrance before going in. The Goten Complex is made up of four buildings connected by walkways called Shiroshoin, Shinden, Kuroshoin, and Reimeden.

*The handrails and sliding doors at the Goten Temple Complex are very old so they may break down if you sit or lean on them. Please be careful when walking inside these historic buildings.

Ninna-ji is not like many other sightseeing spots in Kyoto; it is not crowded at all! You can spend a leisurely afternoon at Ninna-ji just looking at the garden and the beautiful temple buildings.

First when you go into the temple complex you get to see Shiroshoin. You cannot go inside the rooms, but you can look from outside, and the highlight is this painting of a pine tree on the sliding doors.


After you continue walking from Hakushoin you get to the central part of the Goten Temple Complex, Shinden. Shinden is used for rituals and ceremonies, and is composed of three rooms, and although many people probably will mostly concentrate on the beautiful garden, you should also look at the beautiful paintings of seasonal subjects on the sliding doors and walls of the room.

3Nantei and Hokutei gardens

Shinden is in the middle of two gardens; the south garden Nantei, and the north garden Hokutei. Nantei has the simple beauty of a rock garden, and Hokutei is a vivid example of a kaiyu-shiki strolling garden built around a pond. Ninna-ji Temple is the only place in Kyoto where you get to see two places of such different beauty at the same time. The concept of time no longer matters at all when you gaze at the garden; you can spend an unforgettable moment at these two gardens that can be seen only at Ninna-ji Temple. Also, notice that in Kyoto only Ninna-ji Temple has a garden from where you can see a Five-Storied Pagoda.

4Kuroshoin and Reimeiden

Many movies and television dramas are shot here at Ninna-ji, so be sure to have your picture taken here too!

When you continue on the walkway, you get to see Kuroshoin. This simple building and the paintings on the sliding doors feel calm and relaxing.

In the back of the Goten Temple Complex, you can see Reimeiden where the Buddha of Healing is enshrined. You cannot go inside Reimeiden, but you can see inside from the gaps between the sliding doors.

*There is an alarm sensor on the sliding doors of Reimeiden. If you put your hands past the sliding door sensor, it will raise an alarm, so be careful.

Inside the Goten Temple Complex there is a souvenir shop where you can find all kinds of souvenirs from goshuin temple stamp books and amulets to sweets.

The recommended thing to get here are these black beans that come in a beautiful box. They have two kinds of beans made in collaboration with a long established shop in Kyoto, plain beans with which you can enjoy the simple taste of the beans themselves and matcha beans that have a strong matcha flavor.

Five-Storied Pagoda, Kondo, Kyozo, and more

There is even more to see at Ninna-ji Temple than the Goten Temple Complex. There are many places to see at the vast precincts of the temple, so it is recommended that you take your time to leisurely walk around the place.

When you get back to the path that leads to the Kondo main hall, you can see the Chumon Gate in front of you. After going up the stairs and through the Chumon Gate, you will see the late-blooming cherry trees called “Omuro Sakura” on your left.

1Five-Storied Pagoda

When you continue from the Chumon Gate, you will get to see the symbol of Ninna-ji Temple: the Five-Storied Pagoda on your right. Ninna-ji Temple’s Five-Storied Pagoda is especially beautiful when it is surrounded by the crimson autumn leaves. This pagoda is also a designated Important Cultural Property, and it is often used as a filming location for Japanese period pieces and television dramas.


When you head from the Five-Storied Pagoda to the north, you will get to the Kondo main hall, which is also designated as a National Treasure of Japan. The main hall is a rare example of a surviving Imperial court structure.

* Kondo is undergoing renovation works until December 2017.


When you walk to right from Kondo, you get to Kyozo, which is also designated as an Important Cultural Property. Inside Kyozo there are the complete Buddhist scriptures. (Normally Kyozo is not open to the public.)

Spring and autumn: Reihokan Museum

When going right from the Niomon Gate, you will get to see the Reihokan Museum that houses such treasures of the temple as Amida Sanzon-zo that was the principal image of Buddha of the temple at the time of its foundation. The museum is open in spring and autumn for a special exhibition. Some of the items exhibited have explanations in English, so those interested in Buddhist art should plan their trip to overlap with the time of the special exhibition. (Museum entrance fee: 500 yen)

Ninna-ji Temple is a 40-minute bus ride on the #26 bus from Kyoto Station, or by Randen (Keifuku Electric Railroad) a 3-minute walk from Omuro-Ninnaji Station. Ninna-ji Temple can be seen together with such classic sightseeing spots as Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji, and Ryoan-ji temples, so access to the temple is extremely easy. No matter if you are thinking of going to Arashiyama or taking the scenic route Kinukake-no-michi, you have to go to Ninna-ji Temple!

If you want to know more about how to get to Ninna-ji, click on the link below:

Ninna-ji Temple

Kinkakuji & Uzumasa / Other Kyoto Area
Our Reviews

Sampo[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ] STAFF DETAIL
Like you can see from the above, there is a lot to see at Ninna-ji Temple. The vast precincts of the temple can be walked around without having to feel stressed, so this temple is a place I can heartily recommend to those who cringe at the thought of the crowds at the sightseeing spots of Kyoto. Your visit to Ninna-ji Temple is sure to make your trip to Kyoto even better.
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Temples & Shrines Japanese Gardens Kinkakuji & Uzumasa

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