Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto

Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto

Kennin-ji might not clinch the title for "Most Jaw-Dropping Zen Monastery" in Kyoto, but it's a goldmine for Japanese art lovers. Conveniently situated in Gion, it's Kyoto's oldest Zen temple—well, kind of. Like many wooden temples in the area, it's had its fair share of fiery mishaps, so the current building is a mere 250 years old. Following a Chinese-inspired setup, the central axis starts from the Messengers Gate in the south, leading through the Sanmon Gate and Lecture Hall to the Abbot's Quarters.

Back in the day, way back in 1202, a monk named Yōsai decided to shake things up and brought back Rinzai Zen from his adventures in China. And hey, he didn't just bring back Zen, but tea as well, pitching it as a cure-all potion and a handy tool for meditation marathons.

Kennin-ji once was like the Disneyland of Zen, with 53 subtemples spread across its grounds. Nowadays, they're down to 14, but don't let that fool you—this place is still loaded: rock gardens, tea houses, and paintings. Unfortunately, the temple's most prized possession, "The Wind and Thunder Gods" painting is kept at the Kyoto National Museum, but hey, they've got a good replica to make up for it.

And let's not forget the Lecture Hall, where the ceiling doubles as a canvas for a gigantic dragon mural. Yup, Zen folks believe it's there to keep the bad vibes away and help you find your Zen zone. It's so massive that folks sometimes have to lay flat on their backs just to take it all in. Trust us, it's one of those "pinch-me-I'm-in-Kyoto" moments—you won't want to miss it!

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Kyoto. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Kennin-ji Temple on Map

Sight Name: Kennin-ji Temple
Sight Location: Kyoto, Japan (See walking tours in Kyoto)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Kyoto, Japan

Create Your Own Walk in Kyoto

Create Your Own Walk in Kyoto

Creating your own self-guided walk in Kyoto is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Higashiyama Walking Tour

Higashiyama Walking Tour

Kyoto is a city catering to tourists, especially those who love history, religion, and, of course, Japanese culture. Many of Kyoto's attractions are found in the eastern part of the city, which itself is split into wards. One of them is the Higashiyama Ward, home to several famous temples, where the look and the feel of feudal-era Japan are still preserved.

One of Higashiyama's most...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Kyoto Shopping and Food Tour

Kyoto Shopping and Food Tour

The cultural capital of Japan, Kyoto is just as famous as a shopper’s paradise and, without a doubt, the best place in the country to buy traditional and modern Japanese goods. Souvenirs, food, bargains, and various “one-of-a-kind items” are all up for grabs here.

In addition to its shopping scene, Kyoto boasts a rich culinary heritage, from Michelin-starred restaurants to humble street...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Imperial Kyoto Walking Tour

Imperial Kyoto Walking Tour

The former capital of Japan, Kyoto is the city of tradition. During its heyday, Imperial Kyoto was the cultural and political heart of the country. At the heart of its historical landscape, there are several iconic landmarks, each bearing witness to the city's imperial past.

Nijo Castle, an architectural marvel renowned for its elegant design and elaborate gardens, boasts impeccably...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Walk on Philosopher's Path

Walk on Philosopher's Path

The Philosopher's Path in Kyoto winds its way for about 2 km along the canal that carries water from Lake Biwa to the foothills. Lined with cherry trees, this picturesque walking trail was named in honor of the famed Japanese philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, who used to walk here as a part of his daily meditation in the first half of the 20th century. A popular spot for both locals and tourists,...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Arashiyama and Bamboo Grove Walking Tour

Arashiyama and Bamboo Grove Walking Tour

The Arashiyama district of Kyoto is slightly out of the way for tourists, but that means you can enjoy it more comfortably.

Undoubtedly, the most popular attraction here is the iconic Bamboo Grove, a mesmerizing forest of towering bamboo stalks that sway gently in the breeze, creating an ethereal atmosphere. This serene setting is a must-visit for travelers seeking tranquility amidst...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Gion District Walking Tour

Gion District Walking Tour

Famed as one of the most mesmerizing parts of Kyoto, Gion has long been associated with traditional Japanese entertainment, stunning temples, geishas, and local eateries, ideal for whiling away a day in the ancient capital of Japan. This district forms part of the Higashiyama (“Eastern Mountain”) neighborhood.

Among its notable landmarks is the Minamiza Kabuki Theater, a venue where...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


18 Japanese Products To Bring Home from Kyoto

18 Japanese Products To Bring Home from Kyoto

The old capital of Japan, the city of Kyoto has once again been the talk of the world lately, thanks to the bestselling "Memoirs of a Geisha" book and the namesake Hollywood blockbuster movie. Renowned for its impeccable craftsmanship, Japan has so much to amaze a foreign eye with. Many of...