Visiting Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple in Kyoto

So you’ve visited Arashiyama to the west of Kyoto and seen what it has got to offer. Lovely.
And if you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further…

Take a 25 minute or so meandering walk from the main street in Arashiyama and you will come across one of the most whimsical and intriguing temples in the Kyoto region; Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple.

It is known for its 1200 (I counted) unique and individual rakan, followers of Buddhism, dotted around it’s sloping and grassy grounds.

<history from Wikipedia>Otagi Nenbutsu-ji was founded by Empress Shōtoku in the middle of the eighth century. Though was destroyed by the flooding of the Kamo River, it was rebuilt as an offshoot of Enryaku-ji, a nearby temple. In the 13th century, it was again destroyed during a civil war. The temple was moved to its current location in 1922, later suffering typhoon damage in 1950. </history lesson over!>

So like all other temples and shrines in Kyoto, it’s seen some shit during its life span and starting in 1981 the temple was totally renovated. Even though the statues look quite old with their moss styled hairstyles they are, in fact, only around 20 to 30 years old. Carved by amateurs around the region and encouraged by the temple owner (Kocho Nishimura) to create individual characters for each one they carved. It’s very enjoyable to see the different and quite modern poses; it is a little weird contrasted against the traditionally stoic and serious Kyoto temples.

You can still do your usual praying and attempt moments of reverence but the statues are never far away to distract and intrigue.

As I looked through all the rows, I was reminded of the old game Guess Who. The temple owners are missing out on a major MAJOR money spinner. I only want 50% of the takings. Hit me up.

Kocho Nishimura’s son and grandson continue on the tradition and upkeep of the temple and long may they reign over one of Kyoto’s best temples to visit. If you get the chance to visit some of the highlights I spotted were the boxer, the upside-down dude, and the numerous laughing fellas.

Here’s is where it is at. Enjoy and visit. And enjoy.

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