Lonely Planet review
Chion-in was established in 1234 on the site where Hōnen, one of the most famous figures in Japanese Buddhism, taught his brand of Buddhism (Jōdo, or Pure Land, Buddhism) and eventually fasted to death. Today, the temple serves as the headquarters of the Jōdo sect, the most popular sect of Buddhism in Japan. It's the most popular pilgrimage temple in Kyoto and it's always a hive of activity. For visitors with a taste for the grand, this temple is sure to satisfy.
The oldest of the present buildings date back to the 17th century. The two-storey San-mon , a Buddhist temple gate at the main entrance, is the largest temple gate in Japan and prepares you for the massive scale of the temple. The immense main hall contains an image of Hōnen. It's connected to another hall, the Dai Hōjō, by a 'nightingale' floor (that sings and squeaks at every move, making it difficult for intruders to move about quietly).
Up a flight of steps southeast of the main hall is the temple's giant bell , which was cast in 1633 and weighs 70 tonnes. It is the largest bell in Japan. The bell is rung by the temple's monks 108 times on New Year's Eve each year.
The temple is close to the northeastern corner of Maruyama-kōen. From Kyoto Station take bus 206 and get off at the Chion-in-mae stop, or walk up (east) from Gion Shijō Station on the Keihan line.