The Mysterious Nanzenji Temple

There are so many great temples in Kyoto that it is often difficult to choose which ones to visit first. Nanzenji Temple in the north east of the city may not be your first stop, but it should be on every serious backpacker’s itinerary nevertheless. Nanzenji is a Zen Buddhist temple and is best known perhaps for its mysterious aqueduct, which reminds me of the kind of structures you could see in the Scottish Highlands.


It is possible to visit Nanzenji alongside Ginkakuji, and even the famous Kiyomizu temple, on the same trip. All three of these temples, somewhat connected by the Philosopher’s Path, could take you around half a day, if you spend a good 90 minutes at least at each. Nanzenji Temple itself could easily allow for more time that that, though, so you had better do your homework before setting off! For me, Nanzenji just seemed different to many of the other temples I visited in Kyoto, so it could be a great alternative if you are feeling a little ‘templed out’ during your tenure in the city.


The lush and impressive-looking central grounds and gardens at Nanzenji are actually free of admission for everyone (even the compact gardens at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo cost money to enter!), but if you plan on visiting the inside of the temples, prayer halls,Β and buildings, then you will need to pay up to 500 Yen for each of them! Even though I loved my time exploring temples and shrines in Kyoto, I thought that 500Yen per temple within the Nanzenji complex (it is essentially thought of as a group of temples) was a little too pricey for me on my backpacking budget.

Hojo Garden
Hojo Garden


The Hojo is part of the internal area of Nanzenji Temple, and contains some amazing rock-hewn gardens, which are said to be famous for their likeness to pouncing tigers, but I didn’t see the similarities myself! It costs 500Yen to enter the Hojo!

The Aqueduct
The Aqueduct


The Aqueduct and Nanzenin Temple which was located very near to it, was the last thing I did as the sun went down. I got some amazing hazy appearances on my photos, which I also noticed when I was at Ginkakuji, so the spring time evenings in Kyoto must be well-known for its haze and sun flare. It will set you back 300Yen to enter Nanzenin Temple.

11 thoughts on “The Mysterious Nanzenji Temple

    1. I didnyt follow the Philosopher’s Path either, at least no by foot, but the bus I took from Gion headed straight up to Ginkakuji, and I noticed it passed Nanzenji on the way there, so it was an added bonus!


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