Houkyouin Temple (宝筐院)

Houkyouin is a temple of the Rinzai sect in Sagano, Kyoto. It is located near Seiryoji Temple, known as Saga Shakado. This temple is famous for its beautiful autumn leaves. Although it is an inconspicuous temple, it attracts a large number of visitors during the autumn foliage season. However, there are still very few foreign tourists.

Houkyouin Temple gate

Temple History

Houkyouin Temple was built during the Heian period as an imperial temple for Emperor Shirakawa (1053-1129). An imperial temple is a temple for the protection of the state and the peace of the tutelary deity by an imperial decree.

The original name of Houkyoin Temple was Zennyuji Temple. From the end of the Heian period to the Kamakura period, several generations of imperial family entered the temple.

In the Nanbokucho Period (1644-1644), Zen monk Mokuan, a great disciple of Muso Kokushi, entered the temple and restored the temple, which had been in decline. Since then, the temple has been a temple of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism.

The mother of Ashikaga Yoshiakira, the second shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, passed away in 1365. At the memorial service, he listened to Mokuan’s lecture on the sutras. And after further discussions with Mokuan, he became a devotee of Mokuan. He then devoted himself to the maintenance of the Zeninyuji temple complex.

After the death of Yoshiakira in 1367, Zennyuji Temple became a family temple of Yoshiakira. The name of the temple changed to Houkyouin Temple in honor of Yoshinori’s temple name in the reign of the 8th Shogun, Yoshimasa.

After the Onin War, the temple declined with the decline of the shogunate. In the Edo period (1603-1867), Houkyouin Temple became a small temple affiliated with Tenryuji Temple.

The temple was abandoned at the end of the Edo period. But it was later restored in the Taisho period. The present Temple is an independent temple of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.

Temple’s Official WEB site

Shonanko’s head mound

In the precincts of the temple, there is a Shonanko’s head mound. Kusunoki Masatsura (Shonanko) was a son of Kusunoki Masanari, a military commander of the Nanboku-cho period. He died in the battle of Shijonawate in 1348, fighting against a big army of the Northern Dynasty led by Ko-no Moronao. Mokuan buried his head in this Temple according to their friendship before his death. This was the origin of the head mound.

Shounanko head mound in Houkyouin

Nearby spots from Houkyouin Temple

Seiryoji Temple‘s garden is very beautiful. The standing statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in the main hall of Seiryoji is a national treasure and came from India.

If you have the opportunity in the fall, I highly recommend visiting nearby Enrian Temple.

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