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Chio-in Temple 知恩院

San-mon Gate, Chion-in Temple, Kyoto (photo by hashi photo - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Seishidō, Chion-in Temple, Kyoto (photo by 663highland - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Chion-in is the Grand Head Temple atop 7 other head temples of the popular Jōdō ("Pure Land") sect of Buddhism, making it one of the most important spritual places in Japan.

The temple was established in 1234 on the site where Hōnen (the founder of Jōdō Buddhism) taught and fasted to death. Most of the temple complex burnt down in 1633 and the present buildings are reconstructions from the 17th century onward.

With 30 million followers, the Jōdō sect is the most popular Buddhist sect in Japan, ahead of the Jōdō-shin and Shingon sects. Those three sects usually have bigger temples than the others, as shown by Chion-in's massive Dai Hōjō Hall and its sumptuous gold altar.

The oldest structure on the compound is the two-storey San-mon Gate, erected in 1619. With a height of 24 metres it is the highest temple gate in Japan, just 2 metres higher than Tōfuku-ji's own San-mon Gate.

The 74-ton temple bell is also the largest in Japan. It takes as many as 17 monks to operate it at the New Year ceremony.

Daihōjō, Chion-in Temple, Kyoto (photo by 663highland - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Chion-in Temple, Kyoto (photo by 663highland - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Opening Hours & Admission

The temple is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and admission is ¥400.

How to get there

Chion-in is located immediately north of the Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park. It is about 8 min walk from Higashi-yama subway station (Tozai line) or 5 min walk from the Chion-in-mae bus stop.

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