Located between Nanzen-ji (南禅寺) and the Philosopher's Path, Eikan-do (永観堂), also known as Zenrin-ji (禅林寺), is a major temple on the east of Kyoto. Eikan-do was founded in 853, at the beginning of the Heian period, by a priest called Shinjo. The first building was a simple training hall, until Shinjo obtained permission from the Emperor Seiwa to build a temple. Later, the abbot Yokan, also known as Eikan, became the main priest. Zenrin-ji expanded significantly under his rule. Eikan helped many poor people and became very respected by the polulation, hence the temple became commonly known as Eikan-do. Like many other temples in Kyoto and elsewhere, Eikan-do fell under the influence of the teachings of Honen (1133-1212), and is thus now part of the Jodo sect. It was also partially burned during the Onin wars, which in fact destroyed many other historical sites in Kyoto. Eikan-do has since then recovered fully.
The temple consists in various buildings arranged around a central meandering pond ("Hojo pond"). Two of the unique features that can be found here are the small pagoda ("Taho-to") located in the hill above the main temple halls, and the wooden staircase that leads to it ("Garyuro"). There is also a unique pine tree (?) that has needles that are split in three, instead of the regular two. Mutations, mutations... I wonder what this tree is trying to adapt to...
Eikan-do is most interesting in autumn, where the maple trees of its front garden are brightly coloured. Of course this brings hordes of tourists to the temple, and buses from all over Japan are literally queuing to get in. For a quieter atmosphere you should definitely avoid the autumn here, especially week-ends. But the colours are beautiful, and the front garden can be accessed without a fee so it's worth stopping by if you're in the area. Or if you want to experience one of the top Japanese rushes.
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Nearby: Kōun-ji 光雲寺 (310m), Seiryu-tei 清流亭 (360m), Saishō-in 最勝院 (400m), Nanzen-ji 南禅寺 (400m), Nanzen-in 南禅院 (450m), Tenju-an 天授庵 (450m), Ōtoyo-jinja 大豊神社 (470m), Nanyō-in 南陽院 (550m), Konchi-in 金地院 (610m), Dainei-ken 大寧軒 (640m),...
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Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 左京区, Sakyo-ku, Zenrin-ji, 禅林寺, temple, 寺院, 仏閣, Eikan-do, 永観堂