Temples of Eastern Kyoto

I stayed in central Kyoto, but within walking distance of many of the temples in the eastern part of the city. These photos include visits to Ginkakuji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion), Chionin (a major Buddhist temple complex), Heian Jingu (a reconstruction of the ancient imperial palace), Kiyomizudera (one of Kyoto's best-loved and most scenic temples), and a preserved estate for a glimpse at the comfortable life that wealthy citizens of Kyoto once enjoyed. You can view the entire slide show in the window at the right, or skip to areas of interest by clicking on one of the links in the paragraphs that follow.

Shogun Yoshimasa Ashikaga built Ginkakuji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion) in 1474 as part of his retirement villa. Although he never completed his intention to cover the pavilion in silver, it still became known as the Silver Pavilion. After his death, the villa was converted into a Buddhist temple. The temple includes beautiful gardens and a Zen sand garden. Near the Silver Pavilion is Kyoto's Path of Philosophy, which offers a quiet, tree-lined respite from the hustle and bustle of the modern city.

The Chionin temple complex is the headquarters of the Jodo sect of Buddhism, the second largest Buddhist sect in Japan. The temple was founded in 1234, but because of subsequent fires and earthquakes the oldest standing buildings are from the 17th century. The temple is built on a grand scale, from the massive Sanmon Gate to the serene Main Hall. As at most Japanese temples, the grounds include beautifully designed gardens.

Heian Jingu was built in 1895 to mark the 1,100th anniversary of Kyoto. It is a two-thirds scale replica of the old Imperial Palace (as best anyone could replicate the structure that was destroyed in 1227). The buildings, painted a bright orange, are quite a departure from the other historical sites in Kyoto.

Set in the hills of eastern Kyoto is Kiyomizudera, one of the most popular temples for locals and visitors alike. Built in 1633, on the site of an earlier temple from 798, Kiyomizudera is dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. She is revered for her ability to ease childbirth and so Kiyomizudera has become a popular destination for pregnant women. Throughout the temple grounds one also finds many stone statues of Jizo, a "Bosatsu" (or Bodhisattva – one who could attain enlightenment and enter Nirvana but who has chosen to stay behind to help others). Jizo statues are found throughout Japan and are often dressed in small bibs and sometimes hats. Jizo protects travelers, but is especially revered for intervening on behalf of children who have died prematurely. Jizo is particularly worshiped by those who have lost children.

For other photos of temples from ancient Japan, go to Temples of Western Kyoto (which includes the Temple of the Golden Pavilion) and Nara, The Ancient Capital.