Chion-in, located in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto, is the head temple of the Chinzei school of Jodo Buddhism.
The location where this temple stands now was where Jodo Sect founder Honen (1133 – 1212) lived and preached what he had discovered. After his death, his mausoleum was erected here, and subsequently in 1234, one of Honen’s disciple established Chion-in.
Though the temple was destroyed by fire several times, it was reconstructed every time. Jodo Sect was the tutelary denomination of the Tokugawa Shogun family, so in the early Edo period, massive structures were constructed for this head temple in Kyoto.
Sanmon (the main gate) and Mieido (the main hall) are designated as National Treasures, and nine more buildings are listed as Important Cultural Properties.
Sanmon, built in 1619, is a massive structure which is 24 meters high and 50 meters wide and is said to be the largest wooden gate in Japan. Mieido, the main hall which Honen is enshrined, is also a colossal edifice completed in 1639 and is 35 meters in length and 45 meters in width.
Mieido is currently under repair until 2019, but it is disclosed once a month for free, though you need to make a reservation beforehand by phone or e-mail. Of the nine buildings designated as Important Cultural Properties, exteriors of Shuedo (1635), Ohojo (1641), Kohojo (1641), Kyozo (1621), Seishido (1530), Daishoro (1678), and Karamon (1641) are open to the public.
At the far end of the temple precincts stands the mausoleum of Honen constructed in 1613. There also are two beautiful stroll gardens called Hojo Teien and Yuzen’an (500 yen required for admission to see both gardens).
Where to eat around Chion-in
Kasuian is a restaurant at Wajun Kaikan, the hotel in front of Sanmon of Chion-in. The restaurant offers multicourse lunch and dinner using heirloom vegetables of Kyoto for relatively reasonable prices (4,000yen for lunch, 6,000yen or 8,000yen for dinner).
Gion Iwamoto is a high-end restaurant which is located on your way to Keihan Line Gion-Shijo Station from the temple (though this station is not the closest station to Chion-in.) The restaurant is famous for its menu using Oumi beef. A set menu costs more than 10,000 yen, but it’s surely worth the price.
Where to stay around Chion-in
Wajun Kaikan is the hotel in front of Sanmon of Chion-in, as aforementioned. Other than Kasuian, there’s also a cafe in this facility.
As a hotel run by Chion-in, there’s a gallery displaying exhibits related to Honen, Chion-in and Jodo Buddhism, and also offers you opportunities to participate in morning services or in hand-copying of sutras.
There are both Japanese-style and Western-style guest rooms, and some are wheelchair friendly. Each room is furnished with a bath, but there’s also a large communal bath for each gender. Note that there’s no parking lot.
APA Hotel Kyoto Gion EXCELLENT
This is an accommodation facility run by a large hotel chain called APA Hotels & Resorts. This hotel is a 10-minute walk from Chion-in.
If you are traveling alone, this hotel might be a suitable place. There’s a parking lot for 19 cars available on an FCFS basis.