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Nanzenji Temple

Art, elaborate gardens and a giant gate await at this temple that stands tall as one of the most important of its kind in the country.

Tourists gather at the Nanzenji Zen Buddhist temple nestled at the foot of the Higashiyama Mountains. It is known throughout Japan for its spiritual importance as the head of a branch of Rinzai Zen. The shrine, which is decorated by multicolored trees, is packed full of antique paintings and ornate gardens.

Gaze up at the 72-foot-high (22-meter) Sanmon Gate. From the balcony at the top of the gate, take vibrant photos of the green, orange and red foliage with a mountainous landscape beyond them. Marvel at the 124 sliding-door paintings from the Kano school of art. Many of the works portray tigers. Visit in the fall to make the most of the changing colors of the leaves.

Find yourself in the elegant Hojo Garden. It consists of rocks, small pebbles and sand. The Tsuiji Wall surrounding the grounds is made from mud. The particular arrangement of the stones is known as the “mother tiger and her cubs crossing a river.” Admire a charming waterfall from the tearoom. Check out the Lake Biwa aqueduct from the late 19th century within the temple’s grounds. Visit one of the complex’s 12 sub-temples, which include Nanzen-in, Konchi-in and Tenjuan.

Originally a retirement home for an emperor in the 13th century, the building was later converted into a Zen temple. There is a fee to enter the gardens and certain buildings, although the temple precincts are free. The complex is closed annually for the last few days of December.

Nanzenji Temple is located in the northeastern sector of the city. The nearest subway station is Keage, which is on the Tozai Line. It is only a few minutes away on foot. The Nanzenji-Eikando-michi bus stop is close. These transportation links can be accessed easily from Kyoto Station. Nearby sites include the Philosopher’s Walk, Konchi-in Temple and Okazaki Park.

Popular Activities at Nanzenji Temple

Ensure you have plenty of time at Nanzenji Temple. Below are some of the most popular things to do:

Small-Group Kyoto Cycling Tour is just one of the most popular experiences on offer here.

Take a look at our Kyoto things to do page to learn about even more activities in the area.


Guide to Exploring around Nanzenji Temple


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Best Lodging Options Near Nanzenji Temple

See all 2,231 Properties near Nanzenji Temple
RIHGA Royal Hotel Kyoto ¥8,889
RIHGA Royal Hotel Kyoto

RIHGA Royal Hotel Kyoto

1 Taimatsu-cho, Shiokoji-sagaru, HigashiHorikawa-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto
     
    4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in Central Kyoto, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Nishihonganji Temple, Kyoto Tower, and Kyoto Aquarium. Higashi Honganji Temple and Toji Temple are also within 1 mi (2 km). Kyoto Station is 9 minutes by foot and Kyoto Toji Station is 12 minutes.

    Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo ¥83,200
    Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo

    Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo

    34 Nanzenji Fukuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto
       
      3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in Okazaki, this luxury ryokan is steps from Murin-an and Konchi-in Temple. Kyoto Municipal Zoo and Nanzenji Temple are also within 10 minutes. Keage Station is 5 minutes by foot and Higashiyama Station is 11 minutes.

      The Westin Miyako Kyoto ¥22,501
      The Westin Miyako Kyoto

      The Westin Miyako Kyoto

      1 Awataguchi Kachocho, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Kyoto
         
        4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in Okazaki, this romantic hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Shoren-in Temple, Heian Shrine, and Nanzenji Temple. Gion Corner and Kyoto University are also within 1 mi (2 km). Keage Station is only a 2-minute walk and Higashiyama Station is 9 minutes.

        Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI ¥46,000
        Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI

        Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI

        31 Fukuchi-cho, Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto
           
          3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in Okazaki, this ryokan is 0.7 mi (1.1 km) from Heian Shrine and within 3 mi (5 km) of Kiyomizu Temple and Kyoto Imperial Palace. Sanjusangendo Temple and Nijō Castle are also within 3 mi (5 km). Keage Station is 7 minutes by foot and Higashiyama Station is 12 minutes.

          Kikusui
          Kikusui

          Kikusui

          31 Nanzenji-Fukuchi-cho,, Kyoto, Kyoto (prefecture)
             
            4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Okazaki, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Kyoto Municipal Zoo, Heian Shrine, and Nanzenji Temple. Kyoto University and Yasaka Shrine are also within 1 mi (2 km). Keage Station is 8 minutes by foot and Higashiyama Station is 13 minutes.

            Ryokan KANADE ¥16,667
            Ryokan KANADE

            Ryokan KANADE

            1-2, Okazaki Hoshojicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto
               
              4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Situated in Kyoto, this ryokan is within a 15-minute walk of Heian Shrine and Nanzenji Temple. Kyoto University and Philosopher's Walk are also within 1 mi (2 km). Keage Station is 12 minutes by foot and Higashiyama Station is 14 minutes.

              Aoi Philosophers Path Villa ¥52,500
              Aoi Philosophers Path Villa

              Aoi Philosophers Path Villa

              10 Nanzenji, Kitanobo-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto
                 
                3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

                Situated on the boardwalk, this vacation home is within a 15-minute walk of Eikando Temple, Nanzenji Temple, and Philosopher's Walk. Heian Shrine and Kyoto University are also within 2 mi (3 km). Keage Station is 20 minutes by foot and Higashiyama Station is 25 minutes.

                Hotel Heian No Mori Kyoto ¥5,892
                Hotel Heian No Mori Kyoto

                Hotel Heian No Mori Kyoto

                51, Okazaki, Higashi Tenno-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto
                   
                  3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in Okazaki, this hotel is steps from Okazaki Shrine and Okazaki Betsuin. Sen-oku Hakuko Kan and Konkaikomyo-ji Temple are also within 5 minutes. Keage Station is 14 minutes by foot and Higashiyama Station is 18 minutes.