Sanzen-in Temple (三千院) is a national treasure and heritage sights located in the village of Ohara, about one hour north of Kyoto by public transport.
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Intro to Sanzen-in
With over 1,200 years of history, Sanzen-in Temple is an important Zen Buddhism temple from the Tendai sect. Founded in the year 804 by the famous monk called Saicho, it is one of the few temples whose head priest came from the imperial family.
Sanzen temple consists of a large complex, made of different temple buildings, moss garden, Ojo Gokuraku-in main Hall, Enn-yu zo treasure House and a variety of walking paths around the temple grounds and gardens. Exploring around the complex can easily take over an hour and can be a pleasant Zen experience. This as due to its location, it sees fewer visitors than other important temples in Kyoto.
Visiting Sanzen-in temple
A visit to the temple starts at Goten-mon gate, where entrance tickets can be purchased together with a handy map. Visitors are then welcomed by a special Sakura tree, before proceeding to the Kyukuden Guest Hall. Here a variety of calligraphy is displayed, the hall opens to the viewing deck for the Yusei-en moss garden, it's a good place to take a moment and take in the peaceful atmosphere.
Proceeding further is the Ojo Gokuraku-in main Hall, here is the statue of the Amida Buddha together with two guardians. This is the most sacred part of the temple but open to anyone. The main hall also has different viewing balconies for the surrounding garden and pond.
After the main hall, visitors are free to explore the temple grounds at leisure. Within the temple grounds are many small statues of Warabe-jizo, found in different poses from standing, sitting, laying down, and their heads tilted in thought. These are said to protect children, and it is common to come here to pray for safe childbirth and growing up. They make for a great photo opportunity as well.
Further points of interest include the Kannon-do hall, where many small statues donated to the temple by visitors stand and different wall paintings are displayed. Then there is Enn-yu zo, treasure house that tells about the temples special relics and historic treasures.
How to access Sanzen-in
The fastest way to access Sanzen-in from Kyoto station is to use the Kyoto Metro Karasuma line to Kokusaikaikan station and from there use Kyoto Bus number 19 to Ohara. The full route takes about 60 minutes and costs 650yen in fares. Alternatively bus line runs directly from Kyoto station and a one way fare 560 yen. This route may take a bit longer depending on traffic conditions.
Tips for visiting
- Get a preview of Sanzen-in by visiting digitally on Google Maps.
- There are other temples and points of interest to explore around Ohara village as well, take a bit of extra time to explore further as well.
- Come early for the best Zen experience when no one else is around.