Nisonin Temple in Kyoto is a sacred place that leads you into a beautiful maple arch road surrounded by history. Built in the early 9th century by a famous Buddhist master, Jikaku Taishi also known as Ennin, created a temple with a tranquil atmosphere and surroundings. Two mystic Buddhist statues in the temple also give an irresistible awe to visitors. Kyoto has various historical and scenic sites to visit. Nisonin Temple, an ancient Tendai Buddhist temple built over a thousand years ago, is waiting for all of the explorers at the end of the red blazing leaves tunnel. The site is located in a natural artful place called Sagano area, Ukyou district, in Kyoto city.
Photo Credit: Tetsuji Sakakibara@flickr.com
Nisonin Temple has a long history. In 834, during the early Heian period, Emperor Saga, who was abdicated his imperial title to his successor at that time, started the foundation as an edict to a high priest of Tendai Buddhism, Ennin. Ennin was famous and sophisticated in the Tendai Sect because of his completion rigorous training of Enryakuji temple at Hieizan. After its establishment, the temple suffered from many political and religious sectional turbulence but survived those calamities by devout people’s volatile helps time to time.
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Nison literally means “two revered icons of Buddhism”. Shaka Nyorai, a statue of the enlightened Gautama Buddha, which has the ability called Hakken to send out renewed life in reincarnation rings, is the first one. Amida Nyorai, also known as Amitabha Tathagata gives his mercy called Raigou to take deceased people out from reality to Buddhist paradise “Gokuraku Joudo”, follows. Both statues were said to be finished with the gold painting technique known as “Kondei”, but today it appearances dark and tarnished. They were also decorated with “Kirikane”, one of the most artistic ways from the 9th century to paint statues gold, silver, or platinum and leave a geometric pattern on the statues. The two statues are settled in the main hall.
Nisonin is a temple complex, meaning there is the main part and other buildings, and most of them are worth the while to be look around. Visitors especially in autumn, will definitely be mesmerized by the road from the general entrance of the temple. Millions of red maple leaves capture hearts, by its rustling and blazing movement in the mild wind.
Photo Credit: Norio NAKAYAMA@flickr
The 200 meters long road is called “Momiji no Baba”, which means the path is wide enough to ride a horse down the pathway. This pathway leads you to the gate for the imperial messenger, “Chokushi Mon”. Passing through the gate, you will find the main hall of the temple. If you have time and are particularly fond of “Ogura Hyakunin Isshu”, you have to check the stone remnants of an old building called “Shigure Tei” (the house of drizzling rain) where Sadaie Fujiwara, a famous artist and a member of an aristocratic clan edited the collection of one hundred Tanka.
Photo Credit:Norio NAKAYAMA@flickr
Nisonin Temple is not only known for the maple trees. Walking around the garden, you may find a small pallor which sells oshiruko, green tea, and coffee. The reason why such refreshments are sold is because it derives from the origin of Japanese sweet red bean or adzuki.
Photo Credit: Norio NAKAYAMA@flickr
Japanese red bean was imported from China to Japan at the beginning of 9th century accompanied with Kukai, one of the highest monks trained in Tang, China. The red beans were cultivated at the bottom of Mt. Ogura and simmered with sugar from the imperial inventory. It started adzuki paste from this area and it was named “Ogura An”.
Visitors of Nisonin Temple must view the beautiful surrounding nature. Sagano is one of the great scenic places and there are many temples, shrines, and other old buildings to see. You will be intrigued not only by the sacred colorful place, but also because this is an essential part of Japanese civilization. Of course, there is more to see in other seasons too. In spring, the cherry blossoms are an indescribable sight, and unconsciously understand why Japanese cherish and regard it as their national symbol.
Address: 27 Saganisonin Monzen Chojincho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto
Access: 20 minute walk from JR Saga Arashiyama station
Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fee: 500 yen
Website: Nisonin Temple