Visiting the Zen Grounds of Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto

Located at the southern end of Kyoto's popular Philosopher’s Path, Nanzenji Temple is the headquarters of the Nanzen-ji branch of Rinzai Zen. Spanning a wide area with gardens, many sub-temples, and even an aqueduct, Nanzenji Temple is the perfect place to spend an afternoon exploring the beauty of Kyoto.

About Nanzenji Temple

The history of Nanzenji Temple dates back to 1264 and Emperor Kameyama who liked the area so much that he built a detached palace there. In 1291, after becoming a student of Zen under the Master Busshin Daimin Kokushi, the Emperor dedicated the palace as a Zen temple.

Over time, the grounds of the temple expanded and now you can find many sub temples in the immediate area. Though originally built in the 13th century, the Sanmon Gate was destroyed and was only rebuilt in1628 as a memorial for those who died during the civil war at the battle of Osaka Castle.

What to See and Do

Because of the expansive grounds of Nanzenji Temple, it is easy to spend half a day walking peacefully around and exploring all it has to offer. From the Sanmon Gate, to the Hojo, and even an unusual aqueduct.

One of the first things that is recommended to do is visit the Sanmon Gate. It costs 500 yen for admission for adults but that entitles you to climb the second story of the gate, where you can have an amazing view of Kyoto from the balcony.

At the Hojo Garden, you can experience one of the most notable examples of the Karesansui (dry landscape) gardens. At the Hojo Garden, which is designated as a national Place of Scenic Beauty, you can view a rock which is said to resemble a leaping tiger.

You can also include visit to the sub-temple of Nanzenin, where the remains of Emperor Kameyama are said to be held, along with a statue of him. Admission to this sub-temple costs an additonal 300 yen.

Nanzenji Temple in Autumn

Nanzenji Temple in autumn is one of the best times to visit due to the many types of trees and plants that are in the temple grounds. Colors come alive in bright red, yellow, and orange hues and thanks to being able to walk around most of Nanzenji Temple for free, it makes it a great attraction without having to spend too much.

The best view of all though, is from the Sanmon Gate, where you can get to the balcony and enjoy what looks like a carpet of bright colors that span out to the horizon! Definitely one of the best daytime autumn views in Kyoto!

Opening Hours and Admission

Nanzenji Temple opening hours vary depending on the season, but are usually from 8:40 am until 5:00 pm from March 1st until November 30th, and from 8:40 am to 4:30 pm from December 1st to February 28th.

There are three different areas of Nanzenji Temple that require an admission fee to enter, but it is free to walk around and explore the rest of the temple. These three areas are the Hojo Garden, the Sanmon Gate, and the Nanzenin sub-temple.

General admission to the Hojo Garden and Sanmon gate costs 500 yen for adults, 400 yen for high school students, and 300 yen for elementary and middle school students. Entry to Nanzenin is 300 yen for adults, 250 yen for high school students, and 150 yen for elementary and middle school students.

For those wishing to participate in Zazen meditation, the fee is 1,000 yen for adults and university students, and 500 yen for high school to elementary school students. If you would like tea, it costs an additional 500 yen.


  • Name: Nanzenji Temple
  • Street address: 584 Komatsucho, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0811
  • Access: A 5-minute walk from Gion-Shijo on the Keihan Main Line


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