Honpo-ji temple was founded by a priest called "Nisshin" (1407-1488) in 1436. Nisshin was not exactly in good relation with is shogun (local feudal lord), who burned his temple down and imprisoned him. Nisshin was tortured in prison, and one favourite torment was to put a hot pot on his head (given the Japanese translation for pot in this story, one can assume it was a pottery used for nabe). This got Nisshin the nickname of "Nisshin with the pot crown". Nice... Outside the prison, however, the life did not seem very good for the shogun, who died before Nisshin, who was subsequently freed.
The temple was moved a few times, before arriving at the current site in 1587. Two hundred years later, the big fire of 1788 destroyed most buildings, leaving only the Kyozo and Hoko standing. The temple has been rebuilt since then, and its garden was designed by Koetsu Honami, a famous "gardener" in Kyoto.
As with most temples, the grounds are divided in two sections: one that is free to access and one that you have to pay for. The first one has not many interesting features for the foreign traveller, but it does have a nice pagoda which has been completely renovated very recently (the satellite view on Google Maps still shows it covered by scaffolding). The second area consists of the garden and a museum. The garden has an unusual pond surrounded by 10 straight stones, of which I forgot the meaning. Another couple of stone compositions can also be seen, among which three standing stones in the back (and north) end of the garden, which represent three Buddha's and a waterfall.
The museum has one very special piece, but you can only really see it one day per year. The rest of the time a copy is available though ;-) The piece in question is a very large tapestry, one of the three largest in Kyoto. It is 10m high for 6 meter wide, and the whole museum building has been designed to house it. The tapestry was completed in 1599 when its author was 61 years old. It depicts the Nirvana. As one can expect, photography is not allowed in the museum but it's ok anywhere else.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Hōkyō-ji 宝鏡寺 (170m), Myōren-ji 妙蓮寺 (220m), Myōken-ji 妙顕寺 (220m), Fujita House 藤田家住宅 (430m), Ikutanike Jūtaku 生谷家住宅 (530m), Uhō-in 雨宝院 (640m), Jisho-in 慈照院 (670m), Honryū-ji 本隆寺 (680m), Jiun-in 慈雲院 (720m), Chōtoku-in 長得院 (830m),...
External links: Website, ウィキペディア, Wikipedia, Kyoto Navi, Trip Advisor, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, Marutake, そうだ京都, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 中京, 下京, 上京, 本山本法寺, Honpo-ji, temple, 寺院, 仏閣