It’s not every day that an Emperor abdicates his throne and abandons secular pleasures to become a monk. But that’s just what Japanese Emperor Hanazono did in the early 14th century. In 1342 he donated his palace to found a temple. Myoshinji Temple resulted from his religious pursuits, a large complex that houses the main temple, as well as 50 sub-temples. Nearly all of the temple buildings were destroyed in a war in the 15th century; they were rebuilt over the next 150 years, and the reconstructions still stand today.
Entering Myoshinji through one of two gates – north and south – visitors walk along winding paths flanked by high stone walls. Many of the temple buildings are closed to the public, and others offer entrance through guided tours. Inside Hatto Hall, cultural treasures such as a bell dating back to the 7th century, can be seen. Outside, Myoshinji’s temple gardens have been designated as a national place of scenic beauty. Myoshinji is the head temple of the Myoshinji school of Buddhim, which boasts 3,500 affiliated temples across Japan, and has declared itself the largest of all Zen Buddhist branches.
There are two entrances into Myoshini-ji Temple – one at the south end of the complex, the other at the north end. There is an information booth near each gate with maps and directions to navigate the large complex. The main temple is near the southern entrance. A few of the buildings can be entered and viewed through a guided tour, including Hatto Hall and the bath room. The tours are in Japanese and last 30 minutes. Tours are offered every 20 minutes year round from 9:00am-4:00pm with a break for lunch and cost 500 yen ($5USD). From Kyoto Station, the temple is 5-minute walk from JR Hanazono Station or a 3-minute walk from Myoshinji Station along the Keifuku Kitano Line. On foot, the temple is a 10-15 minute walk from Ryoanji Temple. Temple hours are from 9:00am-5:00pm and admission fees from 300 yen ($3USD) to 500 yen ($5USD).