In the early 14th century, Japanese Emperor Hanazono abdicated to become a monk, turning his palace into what is now the Myoshin-ji Temple. This large complex houses a main temple and 50 sub-temples. Nearly all of the buildings were destroyed in a war in the 15th century and rebuilt over the next 150 years. The reconstructions stand today.
Myoshin-ji is the head temple of the Myoshin-ji school of Buddhism, which has 3,500 affiliated temples across Japan, and has declared itself the largest of all Zen Buddhist branches. The grounds here are beautiful, so much so that they’ve been designated as a national place of scenic beauty. You can join a tour to see the inside of the Hatto Hall, which features cultural treasures such as a beautiful dragon painting and a 7th-century bell.
Things to know before you go
- Many of the temple buildings are closed to the public, and others—notably Hatto Hall and the bathhouse—can be visited on guided tours (in Japanese).
- There’s an information booth near each gate with maps and directions to navigate the large complex.
- There are two ways to enter the complex: from the north or from the south. The main temple is near the southern entrance.
How to get there
The temple is situated in the northwestern part of Kyoto, about a five-minute walk from JR Hanazono Station on the San-In Line (with direct service to Kyoto Station) or a 3-minute walk from Myoshinji Station along the Keifuku Kitano Line. The Imperial Palace takes about 20 minutes to reach by bus.
When to get there
The temple is open every day, throughout the year, and like many garden temple complexes in the city, it’s at its prettiest during the spring and late autumn months. Tours (in Japanese) are offered every 20 minutes year round, with a break for lunch. They last around half an hour.
A 10- to 15-minute walk north of Myoshin-ji sits Ryōan-ji , a temple complex that's owned by Myoshin-ji and is best known for its rock garden, complete with raked sand and beautiful mossy mounds. While the garden is certainly the star feature here, the temple is also worth visiting, with its tatami mat floors and traditional paintings.
- Things to do in Kansai Prefecture
- Things to do in Osaka
- Things to do in Izumisano
- Things to do in Nagano
- Things to do in Kamakura
- Things to do in Kawagoe
- Things to do in Musashino
- Things to do in Kawasaki
- Things to do in Tokyo
- Things to do in Busan
- Things to do in Seoul
- Things to do in Incheon
- Things to do in Osaka Prefecture
- Things to do in Nagano Prefecture
- Things to do in Kanagawa Prefecture
- Ninna-ji Temple
- Ryoan-ji Temple & Garden
- Toei Kyoto Studio Park (Toei Uzumasa Eigamura)
- Nijo-jo Castle
- Daitoku-ji Temple
- Kyoto International Manga Museum
- Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho)
- Arashiyama Park
- Togetsu-kyo Bridge
- Kinshi Masamune Horino Memorial Museum
- Teramachi Street
- Tenryu-ji Temple
- Nishiki Market
- Katsura Imperial Villa (Katsura Rikyu)