Five Great zen Temples of Kyoto (Kyoto Gozan) 京都五山

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Five Great Zen Temple os Kyoto, or Kyoto Gozan, are important temples of the Rinzai sect in Kyoto. They include, from highest rank, Tenryuji Temple, Shokokuji Temple, Kenninji Temple, Tofukuji Temple, and Manjuji Temple, with Nanzenji Temple as the specially ranked temple. Among these temples, only Tenryuji Temple is the World Heritage Site. On the other hand, the Manjuji Temple is currently one of the sub-temples of Tofukuji Temple and is not open to the public.

The selection of the Kyoto Gozan was finalized by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). But Myoshinji Temple, Daitokuji Temple, and other large temples of the same Rinzai sect opposed the temple ranking. They were probably at odds with the shogunate.

Wikipedia

This fact means that Kyoto Gozan does not necessarily represent the importance of Rinzai sect temples. But it shows the historical relationship between politics and religion especially in the Muromach Period.

Bonfires on five mountains surrounding Kyoto is also called “Gozan”. But it is nothing to do with the Five Great zen Temples of Rinzai Sect.

Kyoto Gozan
Five Great zen Temples of Kyoto

Kyoto Gozan tour

If you visit the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto, it is reasonable to visit Tenryuji Temple, Shokokuji Temple, Kenninji Temple, Tofukuji Temple, and Nanzenji Temple.

A good way to tour the ive Great Zen Temples of Kyoto is to start from Tofukuji Temple in the southeast of Kyoto and head northwest to Tenryuji Temple. The best time for this tour is during the fall foliage season, but please consult with your guide as each temple and their sub-temples offer special opening days depending on the season.

Nanzenji Temple (special rank in Kyoto Gozan)

Nanzenji Temple is not included in the “Five” Temples. But it has a special rank in Gozan system. Nanzanji Temple and its sub-temples are famous for autumn leaves. You can even climb to the top of the gate.

Tofukuji Temple (highest rank in Kyoto Gozan)

Tofukuji Temple is famous for its vast garden especially in autumn. Though, during the autumn foliage season, it is crowded with a huge number of tourists. At such times, it is a good idea to visit its quieter sub-temples.

Manjuji Temple

It is now a sub-temple of Tofukuji Temple. Unfortunately the Manjuji Temple is not open to the public.

Shokokuji Temple

Shokokuji Temple has a famous ceiling painting of dragon. However, it’s open for public during special opening days only.

Kenninji Temple

The Kenninji Temple is famous for its gardens. It is open all year round. Also there are some good sub-temples. However, sub-temples are usually open to the public during the limited times of the year.

Tenryuji Temple

Tenryuji Temple is located in Arashiyama area. Here, spring and autumn are good seasons to visit. Its garden is so beautiful.

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  6. […] sect of Zen Buddhism. It is one of the sub-temple of nearby Tofukuji Temple. It was once one of the five temples (Gozan) of Kyoto, along with Tenryuji Temple, Shokokuji Temple, Kenninji Temple, and Tofukuji Temple. But it […]