Nishi Hongan-ji

Buddhist Temple in Kyoto Station & South Kyoto
Image by John S Lander / LightRocket / Getty Images
Image by John S Lander / LightRocket / Getty Images

A vast temple complex, Nishi Hongan-ji comprises several buildings that feature some of the finest examples of architecture and artistic achievement from the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568–1603). The Goei-dō is a marvellous sight. Another must-see building is the Daisho-in hall, which has sumptuous paintings, carvings and metal ornamentation. A small garden and two (stylised Japanese dance-drama) stages are connected with the hall. The dazzling Kara-mon has intricate ornamental carvings.

In 1591 Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the building of this temple to serve as the new headquarters for the Jōdo Shin-shū (True Pure Land) school of Buddhism. It was originally called Hongan-ji (Temple of the True Vow). Later Tokugawa Ieyasu saw the power of this sect as a threat to his power and sought to weaken it by encouraging a breakaway faction of this sect to found Higashi Hongan-ji (higashi means ‘east’) in 1602. This temple, the original Hongan-ji, then became known as Nishi Hongan-ji (nishi means ‘west’).

Nishi Hongan-ji now functions as the headquarters of the Hongan-ji branch of the Jōdo Shin-shū school, with over 10,000 temples and more than 12 million followers worldwide.