Eikan-do Zenrin-ji sits on the southern end of the famed “Philosopher’s Path” that runs along a canal in Northeastern Kyoto. Founded during the mid-9th century, Zenrin-ji is the head temple of the Jodo-shu Seizan Zenrin-ji sect of Buddhism in Japan, and although it’s a popular tourist spot, it’s also very much a living, functioning Buddhist temple.
The front gate of Eikan-do lies at the end of a tree-lined path.
The temple itself backs up to the side of the hills that surround Kyoto. In fact, the temple’s pagoda perches high on a hill above the rest of the temple grounds. Visitors who climb the stairs are rewarded not only with views of the pagoda, but amazing views of Kyoto city (come back Friday to see that view!)
Even the lower parts of the temple grounds are covered with lovely trees, including maples whose leaves turn spectacular colors in the autumn.
After passing through the gates, visitors tour the temple’s public buildings — though no photography or video cameras are allowed inside the halls. The buildings have many beautiful paintings, historical artifacts, and treasures on display. There’s also a tea machine, where visitors can receive a cup of green tea (free of charge) to enjoy while sitting and looking at one of the temple’s lovely gardens.
Beautiful landscaped gardens surround the temple buildings. Just beyond the Miei-do, a dragon fountain burbles softly, blending with the rustle of leaves and the songs of birds that fly among the trees.
The fountain’s water emerges from the dragon’s mouth — a fairly common image at holy sites.
Around the fountain, lanterns and monuments dot the gardens.
If you visit in autumn, the trees blaze with color. In June, the hydrangeas are in bloom:
A short way past the dragon, you’ll find the stairs leading up to the pagoda, perched high above on the hill and barely visible through the trees.
I didn’t visit the pagoda the first time I visited Eikan-do — or even the second — but the third time, I did, and if you click here, I’ll take you with me to see the view!
Have you ever visited Eikan-do, or walked the philosopher’s path in Kyoto? If not, do you think you’d like to go?