Aug. 14, 2020 UPDATE
Kennin-ji Temple- 建仁寺 -
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The garden of the oldest zen temple in Kyoto transcends earthly suffering
Located on Hanamikoji Street, the main street of Gion, is a temple known to be the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. The founder of Kennin-ji Temple(Kenninji), Eisai, was a Buddhist monk recognized for bringing the Zen sect to Japan as well as the culture of tea ceremony. His tomb lies in the grounds of Kaisan-do (the Founder’s Hall) located within Kennin-ji Temple. Eisai was a major contributor to both history and culture of Japan and his appreciation towards art in particular is still cultivated in this temple. Kennin-ji is most famous for its twin dragons that are rather a new addition, having been finished only in 2002 for the 800th anniversary of the temple. There is indeed something modern in the way the dragons look, the great contrast the black background provides.
Ceramic figures of sixteen arhats
For those familiar with pottery, you may be able to identify the different methods of glazing and firing used for these figures. The following methods were used: Raku pottery fired at low temperature, ceramics and porcelain both fired with or without glaze. These are figures of Arhats, a term given to a person who has attained enlightenment in Buddhism. The Arhats figures were made to celebrate the 700-year anniversary of Kennin-ji Temple by several artists.
Dragons are recognized to be the protectors of Buddhist teachings, therefore drawings of dragons are often found in Zen temples. To recognize the 800-year anniversary of Kennin-ji Temple, this 11.4 by 15.7 meter painting by artist Junsaku Koizumi of twin dragons were installed. This is the first painting of dragons of any kind to be displayed in Kennin-ji Temple, whereas before Kennin-ji was the only Rinzai temple in Kyoto without a painting of a dragon.
Sit by the zen garden
Several gardens are inside the premises of Kennin-ji Temple. Take a few moments to observe the Zen values by the garden. Many people are attracted to this temple from all over the world. Monks from overseas can be seen visiting the temple as well as visitors from around Japan.
Buy a goshuincho temple stamp book
Check out the shop near by the entrance after you get your admission ticket. You can find goshuincho books which is a notebook for collecting stamps and calligraphy writings from temples. You can purchase one with a dragon on the cover here to start your collection of the vermilion stamps. The goshuincho itself costs ￥1,400 and the stamp and calligraphy writing cost ￥300.
- Manner & Tips -
Enjoy the zen garden and see the natural scenery which changes its face seasonally. Notice the artistic values throughout the temple. You can see both historic and modern art in Kennin-ji Temple.