Built in 1234 by Hounen’s disciple, 勢観房源智Seikanbou Genchi, 知恩院Chion-in Temple is the headquarter of the 浄土宗Joudo-shuu (Pure Land sect) of Buddhism. The founder of Joudo Buddhism, 法然Hounen, believed that one is reborn into the Pure Land (Paradise or Heaven) through reciting the 念仏nenbutsu (Buddhist prayer to Buddha). Many of its buildings were burnt down in 1633 but 徳川 家光Tokugawa Iemitsu rebuilt them. The roof beams of buildings are carved with the Tokugawa family crestmade of three hollyhock leaves and the temple has nightingale floors that squeak to alert of intruders.
I’ve passed Chion-in Temple many times before: from 2006 to 2009, I spent many a weekend strolling in the Higashiyama area, one of my favorite parts of Kyoto. And I’ve gone in once or twice when I first came to Japan, back when I was too young to care about a “temple that looked like any other in this city of temples and shrines” much less take pictures of it to remember. In mid-January 2009 when I went with Mr. Man, I did a better job of checking it out.
The 三問sanmon (main gate) is a 国宝Kokuhou (National Treasure) because it’s the largest surviving structure of its kind.
the stairs up to the 本堂hondou (main hall) through the sanmon
looking down from the main area
御影堂Miei-dou, the main hall, where the sacred image of Hounen is
In the rafters of Miei-dou an umbrella was “forgotten” (忘れ傘wasure-gasa) by one of the architects who helped to rebuild it after it was destroyed by fire and has come to be a charm that brings rain (and keeps the fires away).
the area in front of the 納骨堂noukotsu-dou (charnel house)
the 智慧乃道Chie no Michi (Path of Wisdom) in honor of Hounen
the 三問南坂道Sanmon Minami Sakamichi (the south hill road of the main gate), an easier alternative to the steps of the sanmon