nishi hongan-ji (西本願寺) was founded by shinran shonin, who initially received his training at enryaku-ji (another UNESCO world heritage site). originally persecuted and later pardoned in 1211, shinran founded the shin school of buddhism after writing his teachings during his stay in the kanton region of japan. upon his death, his daughter created a mausoleum. this building became the beginning of hongan-ji and currently serves as the global headquarters of shin buddhism.
in addition to nishi hongan-ji, nishi meaning west, there is the higashi hongan-ji which is situated east of the aforementioned temple (not a UNESCO world heritage site). the reason for the physical split is that additional land was granted to the chief priest at that time. this caused the temple to split into two locations, which is exactly what tokugawa ieyasu wanted to do so as to diminish the sect’s increasing power.
to get to nishi hongan-ji you can walk from kyoto JR train station for about 15 minutes to reach it. from the north exit of kyoto station (the main exit) head west (left) until the road ends. at this point you will see a pedestrian bridge. walk across it so that you end up caddy corner. then head north, you will see the temple on your left. you can take a taxi as well, if there’s more than one of you it will be economical and maybe cheaper than the bus and it is certainly much faster.
visiting this site during prayer is great. i have recorded the prayer and dubbed the sound in the video at the end of this article. i wouldn’t recommend coming here if you are on a tight schedule as there are other fantastic sites to visit in kyoto. but it would be worth it if you want to see this site and to-ji (東寺), since it is just a 1.2 km (3/4 mile) walk. from here you can also head towards nijo-jo, a palace that is a must visit site. i recommend taking a taxi for about 800 yen.
when you come across the temple, this is the view that you will have.
you will first see two buildings on your left, these are not part of nishi hongan-ji, but worth a visit.
make certain to step inside. you will be treated with some nice altars.
keep walking north, the direction you were headed, and next you will see nishi hongan-ji. this is the alley just before the temple. you can just make out karamon gate (唐門).
once you enter into nishi hongan-ji you will see both main buildings, amida-do (阿弥陀堂) and goei-do (御影堂). amida-do contains several statues, including those of the main priests of china, japan, and india. goei-do contains a statue of shinran, the founder of the shin school of buddhism. the most important events at nishi hongan-ji are held in this building.
a closer look at the entrance of the building. definitely go inside!
this is the bridge connecting amida-do and goei-do.
in front of both buildings is this ginkgo tree (icho 銀杏). it is over 400 years old.
to the left of both buildings and a little bit towards the back you will see karamon gate. this is a traditional chinese style gate.
as shown in the first photograph of this article and in the photo below, there is some very nice woodwork on the gate.
this guy is chilling on the gate as well. :)
around the gate there are a few entrances to the other buildings on the grounds which have restricted access. but they all had this purple vale in front of them, which to me looks like a face.
also, don’t forget to look up at the roof lines. ;)
roof of goei-do.
video of nishi hongan-ji. i couldn’t take any video or photos inside the buildings, so i recorded the sounds instead and put them in teh video:
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