My Visit to Sanjusangendo: A Must-See Tourist Spot in Kyoto with 1000 Buddhist Statues in its National Treasure Main Hall

The Sanjusangendo in Kyoto, formally known as Rengeo-in Sanjusangendo, is a must-visit destination. Conveniently located just a 15-minute walk or an 8-minute bus ride from Kyoto Station, it’s easily accessible for tourists. The main hall, designated as a national treasure, is the highlight, showcasing over 500 Buddhist statues lined up in rows.

In addition to the main hall, the spacious grounds offer a beautiful garden where visitors can enjoy seasonal views. With plenty of attractions to explore, including nearby sightseeing spots and dining options, Sanjusangendo is a perfect addition to your Kyoto itinerary!

What’s Sanjusangendo All About?

Sanjusangendo, located in Kyoto Prefecture, is a Buddhist hall built as part of the Houjouji Palace, which belonged to retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa. Its formal name is “Rengeo-in Main Hall.” The hall gets its name, Sanjusangendo, from its unique design featuring 33 bays.

The existing hall was rebuilt during the Kamakura period in 1266 after a fire destroyed the original. Inside the hall, designated as a national treasure, you’ll find 1001 Buddhist statues, including the famous Thousand-Armed Kannon statue, also a national treasure. The sight of these statues, lined up in rows of ten, creates a majestic scene often referred to as the “Forest of Statues.”

Legend has it that among these many Kannon statues, there might be one resembling someone you wish to meet. In 2018, the Kannon statues inside the hall were designated as national treasures, adding to the allure of Sanjusangendo. Besides the hall, the spacious grounds offer hidden gems worth exploring, making it a must-visit spot for tourists.

Visitor’s Guide to Sanjusangendo

  • Address: 657 Sanjusangendo-mawarimachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Phone Number: 075-561-3334
  • Closed: Open all year round
  • Opening Hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (9:00 AM to 4:00 PM from November 16 to the end of March)
  • Admission Fee: Adults 600 yen, High School/ Middle School Students 400 yen, Children 300 yen

Within the premises, there are wheelchair-accessible toilets, flat paths, and slopes, ensuring convenience for wheelchair users and those with baby strollers. While photography is allowed outside the main hall, it is prohibited inside. As visitors need to remove their shoes before entering the main hall, wearing easy-to-slip-on shoes is recommended.

Access Information for Sanjusangendo

Sanjusangendo is a popular tourist spot in Kyoto, conveniently located near Kyoto Station. You can access it through various means of transportation, including public transit.

If you’re walking from Kyoto Station, it takes about 15 minutes, while taking a bus will get you there in around 10 minutes. Purchasing a one-day pass for the bus allows you to hop on and off freely, which many tourists find convenient. Many visitors opt to use the bus for getting around the city.

Additionally, Kyoto has plenty of bike rental shops, making it easy to access Sanjusangendo by bicycle. When parking your bike, be sure to use the designated bike parking areas.

Access by Bus

From “Kyoto” Station: Take city bus routes 206 or 208 and get off at “Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae” bus stop, which is just a 1-minute walk away.

Access by Train

  • From JR Kyoto Station (Central Exit), it’s a 15-minute walk.
  • From Keihan Electric Railway “Keihan Shichijo” Station, it’s a 7-minute walk.

Designated as a National Treasure! The History of Sanjusangendo

Sanjusangendo is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto completed on January 30, 1165. Originally, the temple grounds included a five-story pagoda, but it was destroyed by fire in 1249. The present hall was rebuilt during the Kamakura period in 1266 and is recognized as a national treasure.

Throughout history, the temple has been associated with influential figures such as Emperor Go-Shirakawa and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, leaving a mark on Japan’s history. Despite renovations and new constructions over time, it retains its historical significance.

Sanjusangendo is famous for its events like the “Hyakusha Senju” (Shooting 100 Arrows) during the Momoyama period and “Oyaso” (Large Number of Arrows) during the Edo period, where archers would shoot arrows through the windows and eaves of the hall. Today, visitors can learn about these historical events through exhibits and historical materials inside the temple.

Explore the Magnificent Sanjusangendo, Home to Priceless Cultural Treasures and National Treasures!

Let’s explore Sanjusangendo, which houses multiple national treasures, including the wooden Thousand-Armed Kannon statue and rows of one thousand Kannon statues. Inside the hall, where photography is prohibited, awaits a breathtaking sight that you can only experience by actually visiting.

Visit the Main Hall to See 1001 Buddhist Statues, Including National Treasures!

Sanjusangendo is a popular tourist spot not only for tourists but also for school trips. The ticket counter, bustling with many visitors, is lively and vibrant. If you’re walking from Kyoto Station, look for the Kyoto National Museum right in front as a landmark. From the bus stop to the ticket counter, it’s just about a one-minute walk, so you can easily find your way without getting lost.

The main attraction of Sanjusangendo is the main hall, where you’ll find 1001 Buddhist statues lined up, making it a popular tourist spot. On the right and left sides of the hall, you’ll see dynamic statues of the Wind God and Thunder God, displaying expressive poses and facial expressions. In the center of the hall is the “Thousand-Armed Kannon Statue,” a masterpiece created by the renowned sculptor Tankei.

Among the 1001 Kannon statues inside the hall, it’s said that the names of the sculptors who created 500 of them are recorded. Take your time to appreciate the explanations about the main statues and explore the historical materials related to Sanjusangendo. Although photography is prohibited inside the hall, you’re free to look around, so take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the experience.

At Sanjusangendo, visitors are required to remove their shoes near the entrance before entering. There are separate entrances for individuals and groups, so tourists should enter through the individual entrance. Near the exit of the hall, you’ll find souvenirs related to Sanjusangendo available for purchase.

Within the grounds of Sanjusangendo, there are plenty of benches set up as resting spots. Even in the hot summer, there are shaded resting spots with roofs to provide relief from the sun. The spaces surrounded by vermilion-painted roofs and pillars evoke the charm typical of Kyoto’s tourist spots.

Serene Retreat in Nature: Scenic Gardens Overflowing with Greenery

Sanjusangendo has many hidden gems that are often overlooked. One of these is the scenic garden that stretches about 100 meters from the main entrance. The garden, centered around a large pond, offers seasonal views with blooming flowers in spring and colorful foliage in autumn.

The pathway along the garden feels like taking a refreshing forest walk. The tranquil and cool shaded path is one of the most soothing spots within the temple grounds. Unlike the main hall housing the national treasure Buddhist statues, the garden area offers a chance to connect with nature.

At the garden near the entrance and the further garden along the pathway, you can enjoy different scenery. The pathway surrounded by trees is charming because you can stroll in the shade and cool off even on hot summer days.

Don’t Miss Out on Hidden Gems Inside the Hall During Your Sightseeing!

Around the main hall of Sanjusangendo, there are various attractions to explore. While many visitors tour the hall and leave, it’s worth taking the time to appreciate some lesser-known highlights.

In a corner near the entrance, you’ll find a small hall with numerous Jizo statues enshrined. Since there’s also a donation box available, it’s a nice idea to stop by and offer a prayer.

Rising towards the sky, the “Sutra Dedication Pagoda” is a tall stone tower that stretches gracefully upwards. As you stroll around the temple, you’ll find not only the “Sutra Dedication Pagoda” but also monuments and shrines. During my visit, while the interior of the main hall was bustling with people, the surrounding area was less crowded, offering a hidden gem atmosphere. After enjoying the bustling atmosphere inside the temple, take a leisurely stroll around the grounds to explore some hidden spots.

As you proceed deeper from the entrance, a large bell tower comes into view. Although you can’t actually ring it, it’s a spot you’ll want to capture in photos. Walking from behind the bell tower towards the back of the main hall, you’ll notice fewer tourists, giving it a more hidden gem vibe.

The “Taiko Wall,” donated by the renowned military leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi, is a notable feature associated with Sanjusangendo. Not only is it worth seeing the wall stretching along the temple grounds, but it’s also worth admiring its appearance from the outside after exiting. The tiles on top of the wall bear the crest of the Toyotomi clan.

Near the Taiko Wall, there’s a large gate known as the “Nandaimon,” which, like the Taiko Wall, is designated as an Important Cultural Property.

Standing behind the main hall as viewed from the entrance is the Inari Shrine. Marked by a large stone torii gate, the Inari Shrine is said to bestow blessings such as prosperity in business. Pass through the two torii gates and pay a visit to the main hall of the Inari Shrine.

Inside the Sanjusangendo, numerous stone monuments are placed. Exploring the monuments scattered throughout the temple grounds can also be a rewarding experience.

Sightseeing Spots Around Sanjusangendo Temple

The area around Sanjusangendo Temple, which is also close to Kyoto Station, offers plenty of sightseeing spots. Right in front of Sanjusangendo, there is a museum and a well-known Japanese garden to explore.

Jodo Shinshu Temple Honpoji, Where Saint Shinran is Enshrined

Located about an 8-minute walk from JR Kyoto Station and approximately a 15-minute walk from Sanjusangendo Temple, this temple is a significant site. It serves as the head temple of the Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land) sect, also known as the Honganji school. It enshrines Saint Shinran, the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.

At the heart of the temple grounds stands the Goeido Hall, where visitors can enter. Inside, you can feel the sacred atmosphere surrounding the enshrinement of Saint Shinran’s sacred image. Don’t miss the opportunity to pay your respects at both the Goeido Hall and the neighboring Amidado Hall.

Within the spacious temple grounds, you’ll find various attractions. One standout feature is the “Goeido Hall Gate,” which serves as the temple’s welcoming entrance for visitors. This historic gate, with its impressive presence, has become a popular spot for photography.

Incidentally, about a 10-minute walk from Higashi Honganji Temple, you’ll find “Nishi Honganji Temple,” which shares a similar layout in its premises. Taking a stroll to both temples within a 10-minute radius offers an opportunity to compare and contrast their differences and similarities.

Tourist Information for Higashi Honganji Temple

  • Address: Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City, Shimogyo-ku, Karasuma-dori, Shichijo-agaru
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: An 8-minute walk from JR Kyoto Station
  • Phone Number: 075-371-9210
  • Closed: Open every day
  • Opening Hours: [March to October] 5:50 AM to 5:30 PM, [November to February] 6:20 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Admission: Free
  • Official Website: Higashi Honganji Temple

Famous Garden Near Kyoto Station! “Shosei-en Garden”

Shosei-en is a Japanese garden located about a 10-minute walk from Kyoto Station. Situated within the precincts of Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, this garden offers breathtaking views crafted by nature.

It’s a must-see for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. During my visit just before the rainy season, I was captivated by the sight of lotus leaves floating on the central pond.

The spacious garden, centered around a pond, offers plenty of spots to enjoy waterfront views. Along the stream, lush greenery provides a refreshing and soothing experience. Don’t miss capturing unique structures like the “Boka-kaku” and picturesque views that are perfect for photography.

Tourist Information for Shosei-en Garden

  • Address: East Tamamizu-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 10 minutes on foot from JR Kyoto Station
  • Phone Number: 075-371-9210
  • Closed: Open all year round
  • Opening Hours: March to October: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM; November to February: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Admission Fee: Adults 500 yen, High School Students and below 250 yen
  • Official Website: Shosei-en Garden

Right in Front of Sanjusangen-do! Kyoto National Museum, a Brick Museum

From JR Kyoto Station, it’s just a 15-minute walk to the national museum right in front of Sanjusangen-do. With its striking brick exterior, this museum showcases exhibits related to Kyoto’s culture from the Heian to Edo periods. The permanent exhibition is closed until June 30, 2019, but you can still enjoy special exhibitions for a limited time.

These special exhibitions vary in theme, featuring a wide range of artworks, including precious national treasures and important cultural properties like Buddhist statues and paintings. Since it’s indoors, it’s a perfect spot to visit even on rainy days.

Kyoto National Museum Visitor Information

  • Address: 527 Chaya-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: A 15-minute walk from Kyoto Station, or a short walk from the bus stop “Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae”
  • Phone Number: 075-525-2473
  • Closed: Mondays, New Year’s holidays
  • Opening Hours: 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM (last entry at 5:30 PM, open until 8:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays)
  • Admission Fee: Varies depending on the exhibition
    • (e.g., for the exhibition “Masterpieces of the One-line Saint Paintings and Treasures of the Jodo Sect,” it’s 1,500 yen for adults, 1,200 yen for high school students, and 700 yen for junior high school students)
  • Official Website: Kyoto National Museum

Exploring Dining Spots Near Sanjusangendo Temple

Around Sanjusangendo Temple, you’ll find a variety of dining options to choose from.

Indulge in Rich Cheese Pizza at IL PAPPALARDO’s Open Kitchen

Located a 7-minute walk from Keihan Main Line Shichijo Station and within walking distance from Sanjusangendo, this Italian restaurant offers an open kitchen experience. While watching the cooking process at the open kitchen, guests can wait for their dishes to be served. The restaurant’s signature dish is the Napoli Pizza baked in a wood-fired oven.

For the lunch set “Pranzo A” priced at ¥1,800 (tax included), diners can choose a main dish from a selection of pizzas and pastas. The “Quattro Formaggio” pizza is a delightful creation with an abundance of cheese that seems to overflow from the crust.

IL PAPPALARDO Store Information

  • Address: 451-1 Myohoin-maegasaecho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 7-minute walk from Keihan Main Line, Shichijo Station
  • Phone Number: 075-533-3330
  • Closed: Tuesdays, New Year’s holidays
  • Hours: [Lunch] 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM (Last Order 2:30 PM) [Dinner] 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM (Last Order 9:00 PM)
  • Budget: [Dinner] ¥1,000 – ¥1,999 [Lunch] ¥4,000 – ¥4,999

Loads of green onions as toppings! “Okonomiyaki Kiraku Shimizu Gojozaka Branch”

Located a 10-minute walk from Keihan Main Line’s Shimizu Gojo Station, this eatery specializes in hearty okonomiyaki and yakisoba. Operating from lunch to dinner, the restaurant is suitable for various occasions, be it a mid-tour stop or a dinner outing. In addition to table seating, they offer counter seats for one or two people.

Their signature okonomiyaki boasts a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. The “Butatama (Single)” priced at 700 yen (tax included) offers a burst of pork richness and vegetable sweetness in every bite. Adding generous servings of green onions on top enhances the dish with a crunchy texture and aromatic flavor.

Store Information for Kiraku Shimizu Gojozaka Branch

  • Address: 1F, Belagio Kyoto Shimizu, 562 Yukinomaecho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 10 minutes on foot from Keihan Main Line Shimizu Gojo Station
  • Phone Number: 075-541-1690
  • Closed on: Mondays
  • Business Hours: [Lunch] 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM, [Dinner] 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
  • Price Range: [Dinner] ¥1,000-¥1,999, [Lunch] Up to ¥999

Choose Your Main at Botanical-Themed Lunch Spot “THE BORING FOODS & ordinary coffee”

Located just a 2-minute walk from the Hachijo exit of JR and Subway Karasuma Line Kyoto Station, this botanical-themed restaurant is situated on the 1st floor of the “Weird Hotel”. Offering a buffet-style dining experience where you can savor your favorite dishes and ingredients, it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While it’s inside a hotel, feel free to visit even if you’re not a guest.

The “Lunch Buffet” priced at 1,500 yen (tax included) allows you to choose your favorite main dish from three options: rice, tacos, or salad bowls. Once you’ve made your choice, pile on dishes from the buffet on top of your main. Depending on the combination of main and dishes, you can enjoy various flavors and presentations.

Store Information for THE BORING FOODS&ordinary coffee

  • Address: 15 Higashikujo Higashiyama Ocho, Minami-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: A 2-minute walk from the Hachijo East exit of JR Kyoto Station, a 2-minute walk from Exit 2 of the Karasuma Line, Hachijo East Exit
  • Phone Number: 050-3468-5127
  • Closed: Irregular holidays
  • Business Hours: [Morning] 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM (Last Order 10:30 AM) [Lunch] 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM (Last Order 2:30 PM) [Dinner] 3:00 PM to 11:30 PM (Last Order 11:00 PM)
  • Budget: [Morning] ¥1,000 to ¥1,999 [Lunch] ¥1,000 to ¥1,999 [Dinner] ¥2,000 to ¥2,999

Why not stop by Sanjusangendo, where national treasures and important cultural properties are exhibited? If you’re just touring the main hall, it’ll take about 30 minutes, but if you want to explore the entire precinct, plan for about an hour. Located conveniently close to Kyoto Station, Sanjusangendo is easily accessible for sightseeing. We hope you enjoy your visit based on this article!

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