This Zen temple was once ranked first among Kyoto's Five Mountains, and it is also designated as a World Heritage Site. There are many things to see in the precincts, including Sogenchi Teien (Sogen Pond Garden) and Unryuzu (Cloud-Dragon Painting).
Temple, World heritage site
This is the head temple of the Tenryuji sect of the RInzai school. It was founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, during the early Muromachi period, in memory of Emperor Go-daigo, with Muso Kokushi (the eminent Zen master Muso Soseki) appointed as founding abbot. It was ranked first among Kyoto's Five Mountains of Zen temples. The temple’s precincts, which stretch across the site of Emperor Go-Saga’s Kameyama detached palace, are both Japan’s first historic site and special scenic beauty. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 as a part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”.
Since its founding, Tenryu-ji has been ravaged by 8 major fires, and most of the current halls were rebuilt during the Meiji period. The Sogenchi Teien, on the other hand, retains its original appearance, which is a strolling pond garden with Arashiyama and Kameyama in the background, and is said to have been designed by the founder of the temple, Muso Kokushi. It is one of the best gardens in Japan, in harmony with the elegance of the royal culture and the severity of the Song and Yuan cultures.
The highlight of the halls is a large painting screen of Bodhidharma in front of the entrance hall of Kuri (Living hall). It was painted by the Rev. Hirata Seiko, the former Chief Abbot, and portrays the Zen Buddhism’s founder, Bodhidharma, with a unique touch and expression. It is a masterpiece symbolizing a Zen temple and representing the face of this temple.
The most famous symbol of Tenryu-ji Temple is Unryuzu (Cloud-Dragon Painting), the painting of dragons on the ceiling of Hatto (Dharma Hall). Originally it was painted by Shonen Suzuki in the Meiji period, but due to severe damage, a portion of the painting was reserved. The current Unryuzu was painted by Matazo Kayama, as part of the project commemorating the 650th anniversary of the death of Tenryu-ji’s founder, Muso Kokushi on October 30, 2000. The ceiling of 10.6 meters long and 12.6 meters wide was covered with 159 cedar planks, each 3 centimeters thick, and a 9-meter-diameter double circle with a magnificent depiction of a dragon painting glaring in all directions. The size, power, and depiction are all dynamic and breathtaking.
Sogenchi Teien, a masterpiece designed by Muso Kokushi, retains its original appearance.
The painting of Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism.
Unryuzu, the Cloud-Dragon painting, glares in all directions on Hatoo’s ceiling.
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- Name in Japanese
- Postal Code
- 68 Sagatenryujisusukinobabacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto
- Open every day
Garden 8:30am-5:00pm (Last admission 4:50pm),
Halls 8:30am-4:45pm (Last admission 4:30pm),
Hatto “Cloud Dragon” 9:00am-4:30pm (Last admission 4:20pm) *Open only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, except January 1st and 2nd. Open every day during the special designated periods in spring, summer, and autumn.
Garden only 500 yen (additional 300 yen for Halls),
Special admission for the Cloud Dragon in Hatto 500 yen
1) A 1-minute walk from Arashiyama Station on the Keifuku Dentetsu (Randen) Arashiyama Line.
2) A 13-minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station
3) A 15-minute walk from Arashiyama Station on the Hankyu Arashiyama Line.
- Credit Cards
- Not accepted
- Official Website
- Official Website (English)