Autumn's fire burns slowly.
Eikan-do (Zenrin-ji) Temple should be one of the first temples to visit for anyone who wants to immerse themselves into a hypnotic realm of beautiful architecture and fantasy-like scenery.
The temple is commonly referred to as Eikan-do. Historically, it gained this name after a popular head priest of the 11th century named Eikan. It’s the head temple of the Seizan branch of the Jodo-shu Buddhism in Kyoto. It officially started to function as a worshipping house in 863 AD, although it had been established for that purpose 10 years earlier.
On the temple grounds are numerous work of arts and treasures in the form of paintings, statues and ancient tomes. Although not all are accessible to the public, you can view some in the exhibition rooms or simply by walking around to see statues.
In autumn, Eikan-do’s grounds are replete with beautiful momiji (Japanese maple) trees. Leaves turn vibrant colors and are also a popular sight to view at night when they are lit up. With the expansive temple grounds and gardens, a visit during this busy season is a much more pleasant experience when compared to other equally traversed locations.
Eikan-do’s most important object of worship is the Amida Buddha which Eikan himself acquired for the temple. Legend says the statue, one day, turned its head to talk to the priest. The statue is in the building called Amidado. Because of its historical and cultural relevance, the Japanese government elected to make the statue an “Important Cultural Property.”
With so many gardens, halls and gates worth visiting in this large complex, make sure not to miss the Miedo and the Shakado. Miedo is the resting place of the Jodo sect founder, Honen. The latter is known for the beautiful art on its walls and doors, as well as its rock garden.
Eikan-do’s trademark building is the Tahodo Pagoda towering amidst dozens of trees over the rest of the complex and offering a beautiful view from the top of the temple grounds and of the city of Kyoto. Many people choose this location for their wedding photos or other special events. Others simply make a day of it.