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Rengeō-in (Sanjūsangen-dō) Temple

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

657 Sanjūsangendōmawari, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0941, Japan

Opening Hours

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

JPY 600

Find it on google maps

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expert
Joe
Local tour guide
"Visit Sanjusangen-do Temple early in the morning to avoid the crowds and have a serene experience; the eastern light provides a spectacular view of the 1001 statues of Kannon. Locals often come here during annual archery events – catch one if you can, it's a fantastic blend of sport and tradition unique to Kyoto."

What is Sanjusangen-do Temple?

Sanjusangen-do Temple, also known as Rengeo-in, stands as a monumental testament to the spiritual and artistic heritage of Kyoto. It's famed for its impressive collection of 1001 statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. It's not just the number of statues that captivates visitors, but also the ornate details and the sense of tranquility they provide within the temple's expansive, wooden hall. The temple's name, Sanjusangen-do, translates to 'hall with thirty-three spaces between columns,' referencing the architectural style that venerates Kannon, who is said to save souls from suffering with her thousand arms.

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History of Sanjusangen-do Temple

Established in 1164 under the orders of Emperor Go-Shirakawa, Sanjusangen-do has a remarkable history that spans several centuries. Originally part of the massive complex of the now non-existent temple, it was rebuilt a century later after a fire consumed it. The temple we see today dates back to 1266 and has withstood the test of time, surviving other natural disasters that have struck Kyoto over the years. Intriguingly, it hosted archery tournaments during the Edo period, a tradition that continues to this day with the annual 'Toh-Shiya' archery contest.

Why is Sanjusangen-do Temple Important?

The importance of Sanjusangen-do Temple lies in its deep spiritual significance and its stature as a cultural treasure of Japan. It's home to Japan's longest wooden structure, and the assembly of Kannon statues represents an unmatched feat of craftsmanship and religious expression. The central figure is a massive, seated Kannon, flanked by 1000 life-sized, gilded wooden statues in 10 rows and columns, each with a unique face. This collection is a designated National Treasure, symbolizing the temple's role in the spiritual life of Japan and its dedication to the artistry and skill of ancient Japanese craftsmen.

Things to Do & See at Sanjusangen-do Temple

A visit to Sanjusangen-do Temple is a journey through spirituality and art. Marvel at the 1001 Kannon statues, each a masterpiece, and the 28 guardian deities that stand before them – protectors in vivid color with formidable expressions. To appreciate the statues fully, pay attention to their intricate details, from the folds of their garments to the instruments held by the guardian deities. If you time your visit in mid-January, you might have the chance to witness the Toh-Shiya archery contest, a fascinating display of traditional archery skills in a place that has hosted this event since the 1600s.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the history behind Sanjusangen-do Temple in Kyoto?

Sanjusangen-do Temple, officially known as Rengeo-in, is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto that dates back to 1164. It is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The temple's name, which means 'Hall with thirty-three spaces,' refers to the number of intervals between the building's support columns, a traditional method of measuring the size of a building in Japan.

What are the main features of Sanjusangen-do Temple?

The primary feature of Sanjusangen-do Temple is the long wooden hall housing 1001 life-sized statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon, a representation of the goddess of mercy. At the center of the main hall is a large, seated statue of the Thousand Armed Kannon, flanked by 500 statues on each side in ten rows and several layers. The temple also features statues of 28 guardian deities and the Buddhist wind god and thunder god.

Are there any special events or festivals held at Sanjusangen-do Temple?

One of the most renowned events held at Sanjusangen-do Temple is the Toshiya Archery Festival, which takes place in January. It's a traditional archery competition with history going back to the Edo period, where participants shoot arrows down a 120-meter long hall, trying to hit targets at the other end.

Can visitors take photos inside Sanjusangen-do Temple?

Photography is not allowed inside the main hall of Sanjusangen-do Temple to protect the delicate statues and preserve the spiritual ambiance of the space. However, visitors can take photos of the temple's exterior and its surrounding gardens.

How do I get to Sanjusangen-do Temple and what are the opening hours?

Sanjusangen-do Temple is located in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto and is easily accessible by bus or train from Kyoto Station. The temple's opening hours are typically from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, with the last admission at 4:30 pm, although these hours may vary by season, so it's recommended to check in advance before planning your visit.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

657 Sanjūsangendōmawari, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0941, Japan

Opening Hours

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

JPY 600

Find it on google maps