Ninnaji Temple

The Ninnaji Temple has vast and impressive grounds. You can get to the temple from Kyoto Station via direct bus which takes 30minutes and is also situated right next to a train station which connects with Arashiyama district by a small train, or Ninnaji temple is only a 10minute walk from Ryoanji Temple. So, if you’ve not guessed this one as well, once we had visited Ryoanji we walked west to Ninnaji Temple. It’s not hard to miss, certainly because of its massive and very imposing entrance gate!  

Kongo Rikishi Statue

The Niomon entrance gate has a pair of very tall Kongo Rikishi Statues inside it. Once you enter through the gate there is an impressive avenue lined with trees with another gate at the end, there are paths cutting off the avenue to different part of the grounds and it’s buildings. Once we came through the gate, we turned left to the southwest corner of the ground to visit the Kitaniwa Garden, the garden is accessed through Ninnaji Temple’s Goten, or palace, which was the former residence of the head priest. The Goten has a lovely area in front of it, consisting of white gravel and nicely positioned pine trees. 

Kitaniwa Garden_1
Kitaniwa Garden_2

After visiting the Goten and the Kitaniwa Garden we then went walking around the Ninnaji grounds and taking in the historic superb temple buildings, the most impressive being the five storied pagoda and of course Ninnaji Temple itself.

Five storied pagoda

Hard to believe we actually did all the above in one day last year!!  Having our itinerary plan set out meant we had a good idea of our route, time and what to see.  A good early start, stocking up from the local convenience store meant we had enough to drink and eat throughout the day to keep us going.  On the evening we went for a walk in Kyoto to find a nice restaurant and a have a few well earned beers, which ended a fantastic day! 

Ninnaji Temple grounds_3
Kyoto Tower
Niomon entrance gate.
Ninnaji Temple_Stephen&Anthony

Ninnaji is listed as a World Heritage Site and is the head temple of the Omuro School of Shingon sect of Buddhism and was founded in 888 by the reigning emperor at the time. Members of the imperial family served as Ninnaji’s head priest’s over the centuries and the temple was known as Omuro Imperial Palace. Because of it’s great founding age and due to the many wars and fires that damaged Kyoto during its old history, none of the original building survived, with the oldest building dating back to the early 1600s.

Ninnaji Temple Goten entrance gate.

Before we could enter the building, we first had to take our shoes off and place them in a bag provided which we then carried around with us! Inside the entrance was lovely, with some artwork on display as well. The Goten is built in the style of an imperial palace with the elegant buildings been connected by outside covered corridors or walkways, which lead past a large stunningly immaculate raked zen garden, and then to the Kitaniwa Garden. The garden was like a little oasis with beautiful autumn colours and again immaculate raked gravel. The garden had a pond, bridges, rocks, pines, maples, and also the view of Ninnaji’s 1600’s year old five stored pagoda in the distance, it was stunning. After walking through the garden, we exited through another different temple building, this is why we had to walk around with our shoes! When we visited, some of the Goten building were under re-construction, which did unfortunately block the view and feel of the gardens, but these buildings are very old, so maintenance is understandable and needed to ensure the buildings last for the future! 

Kitaniwa Garden_3

Also, within the grounds Ninnaji is famous for it’s grove of late blooming cherry trees called Omuto Cherries, which are locally cultivated. Because we visited in the autumn we couldn’t fully appreciated the cherries as the cherry blossom is said to be stunning and due to the late blooming Ninnaji is a great place to visit near the end of Kyoto’s cherry blossom season, which is usually around mid-April, although every year is slightly different. 

Ninnaji Temple grounds_1
Ninnaji Temple grounds_2

It turned out to be a fantastic enjoyable day helped even more so by the warm sunny weather.  To see such fantastic treasures of Japan is a real pleasure providing fantastic memories and wonderful pictures to look back on. 

At the time of writing this article we realised our trip to Japan this Autumn was not going to happen due to COVID-19.  With the next time we can visit Japan currently being unknown, it does put into perspective how we take being able to travel to Japan for granted, so it’s nice to look back at our adventures writing these articles.


Please find our other Kyoto articles in the 'Kyoto' section of the website.

Evening meal