Japan | Kyoto | Arashiyama

Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple Arashiyama Kyoto

Japan Winter 2024

Kyoto | Japan

28 Feb 2024 | Wed

Day 09 of 17

  • Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple Arashiyama Kyoto
  • Walk to Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple
  • Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple and Bamboo Forest Arashiyama Kyoto
  • Walk to Jōjakkōji Temple Arashiyama Kyoto
  • Jōjakkōji Temple Arashiyama Kyoto
  • Walk to Okochi Sanso Garden Arashiyama Kyoto
  • Okochi Sanso Garden Arashiyama Kyoto
  • Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Kyoto
  • Walk to Nonomiya Shrine
  • Nonomiya Shrine Arashiyama Kyoto
  • Walk Nagatsuji-dori Street at Arashiyama Village Kyoto
  • Togetsukyo Bridge Arashiyama Kyoto
  • Train Back to Hotel

Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple

Our day began with a convenient Uber ride (30-minute ride) to the serene Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple, a hidden gem located away from the hustle and bustle of the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

We chose to start our day at this tranquil temple, offering us a unique and peaceful beginning to our adventure. This decision allowed us to experience a different side of Kyoto, away from the usual tourist spots.

Following our visit to the temple, we embarked on a relaxed walk along the historic Atago Kaido road. This ancient trail, filled with intriguing sights, provided us with an opportunity to delve into the rich history of the area.

Our Friendly Taxi Driver Waving Goodbye at Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple
Entrance to Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple
Examples of the Many Buddhist Rakan Statues at Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple
Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple

Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple, though small in size, was brimming with charm and intrigue. It’s home to over 1,200 carved statues, each one unique, scattered across the hillsides like silent guardians. The tranquility of the place enveloped us, making our visit peaceful and enjoyable. Starting our day with a visit to this special temple was a decision we were truly glad to have made.

Home to Over 1,200 Carved Statues

In the year 766, the original Otagi Temple was first built in Higashiyama near Gion by order of Emperor Shotoku. At the beginning of the Heian Period (794-1192), the temple was washed away when the nearby Kamo River flooded. However, it was re-established by Senkan Naigu (918-984), a priest of the esoteric Tendai sect of Buddhism. Locals cherished the new temple, installing a statue named Yaku-yoke Senju Kannon (the thousand-armed Kannon Boddhisattva that protects against bad luck), carved by Senkan Naigu himself.

In the year 1955, Kocho Nishimura (1915-2003), a Buddhist statue sculptor and restorer who became a Buddhist monk himself, was ordered to be the chief of Otagi Nenbutsuji. Thus began the artistic transformation of Kyoto’s most oft-ruined temple.

Over a period of 10 years starting in 1981, reconstruction work was in full swing. Much of the temple grounds were dismantled, restored, and repaired. The main project of the era was the creation of 1,200 carved statues that now cover the hillsides. These are rakan, the followers of Buddha, created by everyday people who made a pilgrimage to learn carving under the guidance of Kocho Nishimura. He urged them to bring forth the unique, personal figures that were hiding in the stone. Some rakan are posed deep in serious prayer, while others are smiling, laughing, or holding objects that hint at the carvers’ hobbies and passions. Nowhere else in Japan can you find such an eclectic mix of religious figures that combine both the sublime and the earthly.

– Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple > Website

Map | Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple

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