The Tourist’s Guide to Eastern Kyoto: Sanjusangendo Temple and Other Places

Kyoto served as the capital city of the country during the Heian Period – a period considered to be the time when Taoism, Buddhism, and Chinese influences were at their peak. Today, Kyoto stands as one of the most historically and culturally rich cities in Japan that offer plenty of attractions for tourists to enjoy, alongside Tokyo and Osaka.

For those who will be visiting Eastern Kyoto, one of the best places to start off one’s tour would have to be Sanjusangendo Temple which houses the famous 1001 Kannon statues.

Brief History of the Sanjusangendo Temple in Mawari, Kyoto, Japan

The Sanjusangendo Temple, which literally means thirty-three halls in English, is located in the district of Higashiyama. Its official name is Rengio-in (The Lotus King Hall).

According to history, the construction of the Sanjusangendo Temple was initiated by Emperor Go-Shirakawa and was completed by Taira no Kiyomori during the year 1164. In 1249, a horrible fire destroyed the majority of the complex and only its main hall was rebuilt seventeen years later.

The Sanjusangendo Temple Hall

By 663highland (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

With a total length of 120 meters, the Sanjusangendo Temple Hall serves as the longest wooden building in Japan.

As previously mentioned, the English translation of its name means thirty-three halls, which is derived from the architectural design of the main hall. However, it is wrong to think that the hall consists of thirty-three smaller halls. The number merely represents the intervals between every support column of the hall.

Heavy Incense and the 1001 Kannon Carved Images/Statues of the Sanjusangendo Temple

By Tamamura Kozaburo ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Saunjusangendo Temple is dedicated to the deity of Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokiteśvara, a Bodhisattva better known as Kannon or Kanzeon in Japan.

As such, the temple houses a massive wooden statue of Kannon that stands in the center of the main hall. This statue is flanked by five hundred human-sized 1000-Armed Kannon statues on each side. These smaller Kannon statues that stand on the left and right sections of the main Kannon statue are arranged such that they form ten rows and fifty columns per side.

Combined with heavy incense, the total of 1,001 carved images of Senju Kannon makes for a powerful and astonishing sight to see.

The Annual Kyudo (Archery) Contest of the Sanjusangendo Temple – Brief History, 2017 Schedule, Etc.

By No machine-readable author provided. Peter 111 assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Among the interesting events hosted by the Sanjusangendo Temple, its annual kyudo contest stands to be the most popular among locals and tourists. It dates back to the Edo Period when a warrior named Miyamoto Musashi and the Yoshioka-ryu leader, Yoshioka Denshichiro, challenged each other to a duel just beyond the outskirts of the temple complex.

According to legend, the warrior showed exceptional skills in kyudo by rapidly shooting a hundred arrows in succession, from one end of the temple hall to the other. 51 of his shots were able to hit the target.

Since then, the temple has hosted an annual archery competition that challenges participants to shoot an arrow along the side of its 120-meter long main hall. Throughout the years, different kinds of archery contests have been done at the Sanjusangendo Temple such as:

The Oyakazu

The Oyakazu focuses on the number of times a participant is able to hit the target in a span of 24 hours. At present, the number to beat is 8,133, which was done in 1686 by an archer that shot a total of 13,053 arrows.

The Hiyakazu

The Hiyakazu focuses on the number of times a participant is able to hit the target in a span of 12 hours. The winner of the contest in 1774 shot a total of 11,715 arrows, which surprisingly results in an average shooting rate of 16 arrows/minute.

The Seni

The Seni allows each participant to shoot a total of 1,000 arrows. The one with the highest number of target hits wins the contest. In 1827, a young boy of just eleven years of age won by shooting a total of 995 target hits.

The Hyakui

The Hyakui allows each participant to shoot a total of a hundred arrows. Similar to the Seni, the one with the most target hits out of the hundred wins the contest.

At present, a modern archery competition known as the Ohmato Taikai is hosted by the Sanjusangendo Temple every 2nd Sunday of January. Compared to the previous contests, this one consists of less extreme requirements.

The contestants of the Ohmato Taikai are all 20 years of age. In groups of six, these archers shoot four targets that are set at a distance of 60 meters away from their position. Each of them is allowed to shoot two arrows in a span of two minutes. Those that are able to get two target hits move on to the next challenge. The event also features kyudo demonstrations by more experienced archers.

For the year 2017, the contest was held on January 8. It is expected that the Ohmato Taikai will be held the following year on January 14, given that weather conditions are good.

Basic Information about the Sanjusangendo Temple – Map & Access, Hours, Etc.

Tourists can reach the Sanjusangendo Temple by taking a bus from the Kyoto Station to the Hakubutsukan-Sanjusangendo-mae bus stop. The bus numbers to take note of are 208, 206, and 100. All three of these buses include the bus stop for the Sanjusangendo temple in their routes. The bus ride usually takes just ten minutes of travel time and costs 230 yen per person, one way.

Alternatively, the Sanjusangendo Temple can also be accessed by taking a 20-minute walk from the Kyoto Station. For those who will be getting off at the Shichijo Station of the  Keihan Line, the Sanjusangendo Temple is just a 5-minute walk away.

Given the large area of Eastern Kyoto, tourists who want to extend their stay can expect to have no problem in looking for a hotel. Tourist information guide centers can be found in the majority of Kyoto’s stations.

Hours: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, daily; 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, daily (November 16 – March 31)

Admission Fee: 600 yen per person

Address: 657 Mawari, Sanjusangendo, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0941

Possible Side Trips within Eastern Kyoto


The Kiyomizudera, which literally translates to mean the Temple of Pure Water in English, dates back to the year 780 when it was built in Eastern Kyoto. It is situated in the same wooded hills as that of Otowa Waterfall hence its name.

One of the most popular attractions of the Kiyomizudera is its wooden stage that stands 13 meters above the ground where visitors can enjoy a pleasant view of the temple’s maple and cherry trees.

Hours: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM, daily

Admission Fee: 400 yen per person

Address: 294 1-chome, Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0862


The Ginkakuji or the Silver Pavilion is one of Eastern Kyoto’s most popular Zen temples. It is modeled after the Kinkakuji or the Golden Pavilion situated in Northern Kyoto.

Originally, the Ginakakuji was built in 1482 to serve as the retirement villa of Ashikaga Yoshimasa. After his death in 1490, the complex was converted into a religious place, which now also houses about six other temples, a sand garden, and a moss garden.

Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, daily

Admission Fee: 500 yen per person

Address: 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, 606-8402

Higashiyama District

The Higashiyama District slopes along the lower section of Eastern Kyoto’s mountains. It is among the best historic districts for tourists to explore and offers an authentic experience of how the residents of Kyoto used to live.

Traditional merchant shops, wooden buildings, and other charming establishments line up the narrow streets of the district.

Kyoto National Museum

The Kyoto National Museum or Kyoto Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan opened its doors to the public in 1897. It serves as one of the oldest museums in Japan and is among the four highly esteemed national museums of the country.

Hours: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM, from Tuesday to Sunday (for the permanent collection); 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM, from Tuesday to Sunday (for special exhibitions)

Admission Fee: 520 yen per person (for the permanent collection); 1,500 yen per person (for special exhibitions)

Address: 527 Chayacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0931

Nanzenji Temple

The Nanzenji Temple is situated at the foot of the Higashiyama mountains. It dates back to the 13th century and serves as one of Japan’s most significant Zen temples. Since its establishment, the temple grounds have expanded to cover an incredibly large area which now houses tons of historical and cultural attractions for visitors to explore.

Some of the must-visit structures within the complex include the Sanmon Entrance Gate, the Hojo, the Nanzenin Temple, the Konchi-in Temple, and the Tenjuan Temple.

Hours: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, daily

Admission Fee: No admission fee required to enter the temple grounds; Other attractions within the complex may have corresponding fees

Address: Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8435


Gion is a geisha district that stands to be the most popular one in Kyoto. It goes around Shijo Avenue, just between the Kamo River and the Yasaka Shrine.

Other than the beautiful wooden houses and tea houses that line up the district, the sight of geishas and their apprentices roaming through the streets makes Gion a pleasant and memorable place to visit.

Philosopher’s Path

The Philosopher’s Path or Tetsugaku no Michi is basically a walking trail that passes through the northern section of the Higashiyama district. Hundreds of stunning cherry trees line up the 2-kilometer long stone path, which follows a canal.

The Ginkakuji and the Nanzenji neighborhood make up the opposite ends of the Philosopher’s Path.

Kodaiji Temple

The Kodaiji Temple was built during the year 1606 to pay tribute to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, an iconic historical figure of Japan. Thanks to the financial support that was offered by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the successor of Hideyoshi, a lavish style surrounds the temple grounds.

Among the many sites visitors can explore within the complex are the Zen gardens, a mausoleum for Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his wife, tea houses, and a small museum.

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM, daily

Admission Fee: 600 yen per person; Other attractions may require additional fees

Address: 526 Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0825

Shorenin Temple

The Shorenin Temple is another temple located at the base of the Higashiyama mountains. It is among Kyoto’s monzeki temples that were headed by priests who came from the imperial family. The complex features a winding path that allows visitors to explore its many halls, buildings, and gardens.

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, daily

Admission Fee: 500 yen per person

Address: 69-1 Awataguchi Sanjobocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0035

Heian Shrine

The Heian Shrine is considered to be a relatively new shrine that was only built in the year 1895 for the 1100th anniversary of Kyoto’s foundation as the capital city of the country. As such, it is dedicated to Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei who served as the first and last emperors who ruled over Japan from the city.

Hours: 6:00 AM – 5:30 PM, daily

Admission Fee: No admission fee

Address: 97 Okazaki, Nishitenno, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8341

Chionin Temple

The Chionin Temple serves as the Jodo Sect’s head temple. With the sect having millions of followers, the temple is among the busiest ones in Japan. The spacious temple grounds houses several structures that should not be missed out on such as its gigantic Sanmon Gate, Miedo Hall, Amidado Hall, Seishido Hall, Hojo Garden, and Yuzen Garden.

Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM, daily

Admission Fee: No admission fee required to enter the temple grounds; Other attractions within the complex may have corresponding fees

Address: 400 Rinkacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, 605-8686

Eikando Temple

The Eikando Temple, which also goes by the name Zenrinji Temple, a few ways up north of the Nanzenji Temple. During the autumn season, the complex becomes an absolutely breathtaking sight, with vivid autumn colors practically present at each and every corner.

Numerous halls are scattered throughout the vicinity, along with a stunning pagoda and pond garden.

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, daily

Admission Fee: 600 yen per person; 1,000 yen per person (autumn season, daytime); 600 yen per person (autumn season, nighttime)

Address: 48 Eikandocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8445

Shinnyodo Temple

The Shinnyodo Temple dates back to the year 984 when it was established by a priest of the Enryakuji Temple of Mount Hieizan. It belongs to the Tendai Sect of Japanese Buddhism and is particularly stunning during the fall season. Several contemporary dry gardens can be found within the complex.

Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, daily

Admission Fee: 500 yen per person

Address: 82 Jodoji Shinnyocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8414

Yasaka Shrine

The Yasaka Shrine or Gion Shrine is situated between the districts of Higashiyama and Gion. It was established more than 1,300 years ago. The unique shrine which combines its offering hall and inner sanctuary into a single structure also hosts the area’s Gion Matsuri summer festival every July.

Given its location beside the Maruyama Park, the complex can also get quite crowded with locals and tourists enjoying the cherry blossom season during the month of April.

Hours: Always open

Admission Fee: No admission fee

Address: 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0073

Maruyama Park

The Maruyama Park is located right next to the Yasaka Shrine of the district of Higashiyama. It serves as one of Kyoto’s public parks and is one of the best places for hanami (cherry blossom viewing).

Address: Maruyamacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0071

Shogunzuka Mound

The Shogunzuka Mound is believed to be the site where Emperor Kammu initially surveyed the land he later established the capital city on. This area is actually part of the complex of the Shorenin Temple and features a newly renovated observation deck where tourists can view Northern Kyoto in its entirety.

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, daily

Admission Fee: 500 yen per person

Address: 69-1 Awataguchi Sanjobo, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0035