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“Beautiful Old Temples in the Ohara” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Sanzen-in Temple

Sanzen-in Temple
540 Ohara Raikoin-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 601-1242, Kyoto Prefecture
+81 75-744-2531
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Ranked #25 of 405 Attractions in Kyoto
4.5 of 5 stars 262 Reviews
Type: Religious Sites, Cultural
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Taipei, Taiwan
Top Contributor
159 reviews 159 reviews
143 attraction reviews
Reviews in 67 cities Reviews in 67 cities
140 helpful votes 140 helpful votes
“Beautiful Old Temples in the Ohara”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed December 19, 2014

Sanzen-in temple (三千院, さんぜんいん) is one of many famous fall foliage locations in Kyoyo. It is located in the northeast of Kyoto Station in the rural town of Ohara (大原), about 20 km (12.4 mi) by car. Denkyo-daishi Saicho, the founder of Enryakuji (延暦寺) in Mount Hieizan (比叡山), built small buildings on Mt. Hiei as priests' houses in 788, which was believed to be the origin of Sanzen-in. Sanzen-in is the largest temple in the area with multiple buildings and gardens.

We were there in the late afternoon in November. There are many small shops along the uphill walking path from the parking lot to the Sanzen-in temple. You need to try the aisu kyuri (cucumbers soaked in seaweed flavored ice water on a stick). The most famous food in Ohara is miso; they have over hundred types of miso. They are so proud of their miso. The white miso is especially tasty. Sanzenin temple is the major attraction of Ohara. The complex has many temple buildings, gardens, and lovely paths to walk around. First, we passed the gate of the temple (御殿門) and it came the Kyakuden (Guest Hall, 客殿). The buildings are connected by a corridor and the beautiful Shuhekien Japanese garden (聚碧園) with trees and a small pond surrounded by them. It is a nice place to relax and enjoy the fresh air. Shinden (宸殿) is the main building, and we saw the Ojo Gokuraku-in Hall (往生極樂殿) through the colorful maple and cedar trees on the moss garden. Ojo Gokuraku-in Hall is the oldest temple building at Sanzen-in. It was built in 985 and was rebuilt in 1143. It holds a statue of Amida Buddha (阿弥陀如来, 阿彌陀佛), Sanzenin's most valued treasure. The statue of Amida Buddha is accompanied by two attendant deities, Kannon (観音菩薩, 觀世音菩薩) on one side and Seishi (勢至菩薩, 大勢至菩薩) on the other. Besides the above mentioned temples, the Kan'non-do hall (觀音堂) and Konjikifudo-do hall (金色不動堂) are also both worth a visit. The fall foliage is the most crowded season, and sometimes you just can’t easily go inside the halls. If you look carefully enough, you can find a number of stone statues on the moss. It really makes the garden even more worth seeing. The late afternoon makes photo taking most enjoyable.

The admission is 700 yen, and it opens 7 days a week. You can take Kyoto City Bus # 17, which provides a direct connection from Kyoto Station to Ohara (60 minutes). Sanzen-in Temple is beautiful for all the seasons. If you want to avoid the crowd, it is better to go there early in the morning when they open at 9:00 am (Nov. 8:30 am).

Visited January 2014
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La Mesa, CA.
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122 reviews 122 reviews
83 attraction reviews
Reviews in 53 cities Reviews in 53 cities
119 helpful votes 119 helpful votes
“Beautiful Temple -- Terrible Place to Visit except in off season”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed December 3, 2014

I first went to Sanzen-in about 47 years ago with my wife when we were on our honeymoon and stayed a few days in Kyoto. At that time it was out at the end of a bus line, it was in June and it was the most serene, beautiful temple I have ever visited. Would that I can keep that memory undisturbed.

First, it is still beautiful, small, intimate, lovely gardens, well integrated with the temple. BUT and it is a very BIG BUT. I have been there two times in the past 5 years during the fall when the leaves were turning and it is an absolute zoo. There is a huge parking lot in the valley across from the temple and it fills up with 10 or more tour buses. The crowd is so great that it is almost impossible to enjoy the beauty of what is one of Kyoto's finest temples.

Yes, I know you are supposed to see it in the fall for the leaves or in the spring for the cherry blossoms, but don't if you hope to have any real enjoyment. This is a temple for the off seasons only, too many people, too crowded, too congested. It is a real shame but I can recommend it only with these reservations.

Visited November 2014
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Athens, Greece
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54 reviews 54 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
59 helpful votes 59 helpful votes
“Worth the travel”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 4, 2014

One of the best temple experience in Kyoto. We liked very much the fact that we could visit the interior rooms - halls of the temple and admire the paintings and decoration. The gardens and the surrounding is also magnificent

Visited October 2014
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Oakland, California
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12 reviews 12 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Absolutely worth the easy bus trip”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 29, 2014

I got on a bus that was clearly marked and it took me to OHARA and then you follow people up the hill to Sanzen in Temple... it helps if you know that "San" is three horizontal lines in Kanji as I did not see an english sign.

the path up is along a stream. I arrived as they opened the gates so the stores on the way up were not open. it was beautiful and quiet. The grounds are magnificent, the quiet and the water and the lush moss are worth many many photos. I had their special tea with gold flakes, but it did not really agree with me, so I don't recommend it.

It was a love hour or two on the grounds and the stores were open on the way back and I bought jam. I missed my bus, but they run frequently, so I walked behind the bus depot and saw rice fields up close and flowers and a river. Definitely worth missing bus. by the way, you can check stuff at the bus depot so you don't have to carry it up to temple.

Visited November 2013
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Turkey
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13 reviews 13 reviews
13 attraction reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
“so nice so extreme”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 18, 2014

you must see it, it is quite and graceful...gardens ,ponds and other facilities are rather nice.there are some zen gardens too...

Visited September 2013
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