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Genko-an Temple

One of Kyoto’s four ‘blood temples’ emphasizing the delicate relationship between life and death.

Located a short distance from Kyoto Station, Genko-an Temple manages to fit in perfectly within its calm, residential surroundings. This quiet neighborhood, filled with families and busy people, counteracts the dark history contained within Genko-an.

Photo by: Mimi Dietderich Outside the temple.

Genko-an is one of four chitenjo (blood ceiling) temples found in Kyoto, along with Yogen-in, Shoden-ji and Hosen-in. The name comes with a chilling history, as each temple incorporates wooden boards bearing the blood of slain samurai.

Slain samurai

The blood-stained ceiling came about in the year 1,600, after a 12-day-long battle at Fushimi Castle between Daimyo (military lord) Ishida Mitsunari and the Tokugawa Shogun (military ruler) loyalist Torii Mototada ended in tragedy.

Photo by: Mimi Dietderich Samurai blood on the ceiling.


It is said that knowing that the battle was unavoidable and defeat was inevitable, Mototada and his men still stood their ground. When defeat was imminent, rather than be captured, Mototada, his family and the remaining 370 warriors committed seppuku (ritualistic suicide of the samurai class). The floorboards, having now been stained with their blood, were preserved to be later used for temples in order for this loyal act to be honored and the spirits lost to find peace.

10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do in Kyoto

A geisha at the bar of Mosaic Hostel Kyoto
Genko-an is frequently visited due to its proximity to Kyoto Station as well as its well-defined chitenjo. Arriving at the bright, clean temple before you, the first reaction is to question your map considering the obvious age of the other chitenjo temples. Luminescent stone paths, a canopy of bright foliage and the immaculate grounds contrast the narrow streets and close confines that surround Genko-an yet warmly beckon you.

At Genko-an, the presence of the departed is not overbearing or frightening. Likewise, the serenity felt here, even in a crowd of people, is genuine. Entering the temple instantly elicits a sigh of content. Before you, you’ll witness the soft tatami flooring gently worn from visitors’ feet, open views highlighting the endless gardens accented by the gentle breeze flowing through the temple that melt away the stresses of the modern world.

Photo by: Mimi Dietderich The circular window represents the “Window of Realization” and is especially beautiful in fall.

The temple is filled with curious visitors but the only apparent sounds in the tranquil temple are those of inaudible whispers and rustling leaves. Following other visitors’ gazes, your attention is brought to the ceiling above. Although you might be uncertain at first, the markings are undeniable. Handprints, footprints and what appears to be the shape of an entire body are retained in the preserved state of the boards.

The temple is an especially beautiful sight to visit in autumn when the Japanese maple trees turn color. Genko-an has managed to create a harmonious relationship with a turbulent and violent past leaving visitors with a sense of serenity and nothing but reverence for those lost hundreds of years ago.


A geisha at the bar of Mosaic Hostel Kyoto

10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do in Kyoto

Mosaic Hostel give us their insider tips for getting off the beaten track in Japan’s cultural capital. Includes castles, sewage plants and craft beer. Curious? Read on.


Things To Know

Fees and hours

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance: ¥400.

How To Get There


47 Takagamine Kitatakagaminechō, Kita-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 603-8468, Japan

By bus

From Kyoto Station take the Kyoto City #6 Bus 25 stops (42 minutes) and get of at Takagaminegenkōanmae (鷹峯源光庵前). Walk 2 minutes.

Where To Stay

  • 40 Takagamine Kitatakagaminecho, Kyoto-shi Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603-8468 Japan
  • ¥16,000 - ¥64,000
  • 4.2/5 (172 reviews)
  • 0.2 km
Roku Kyoto LXR Hotels & Resorts
  • 44-1 Kinugasa Kagamiishicho, Kyoto-shi Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603-8451 Japan
  • ¥130,433 - ¥906,322
  • 0.8 km
Guest House Sakura Komachi
  • 10-2 Kinugasa Gaidocho, Kyoto-shi Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603-8372 Japan
  • ¥4,500 - ¥13,500
  • 4.67/5 (57 reviews)
  • 1.8 km
Ori Stay & Living
  • 67-21 Higashiwakamiyacho, Kyoto-shi Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto, 602-0086 Japan
  • ¥27,000 - ¥63,358
  • 2.5 km
Hostel Sui Kyoto
  • 732 Makuracho, Kyoto-shi Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto, 602-8488 Japan
  • ¥3,780 - ¥13,500
  • 4.33/5 (20 reviews)
  • 2.6 km

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