The oldest and one of the most important Zen temples in Kyoto, Kennin-ji was founded in the year 1202 by a monk. Situated near the famous Geisha district of Gion, Kennin-ji attracts Buddhist monks on pilgrimage, as well as religious locals and tourists, and curious explorers.
The main hall is a bastion of solemnity. The architecture features rooftops that curve upwards toward the sky, as if in prayer. The original temple complex contained seven buildings, but fires throughout the centuries destroyed many. The temple was rebuilt in the mid-thirteenth century and again in the sixteenth century. Today three outstanding buildings remain: the Dharma Hall, the principal building; a tea house; and the Imperial Messenger Gate. Interestingly, the gate dates back to the 12th or 13th centuries, and today marks from stray arrows during battles can still be seen.
Kennin-ji boasts a stunning Zen garden. Like most Zen gardens, Kennin-ji's is defined by its simplicity and beauty. An aesthetically pleasing placement of rocks, trees, and grassy areas create a calming, peaceful atmosphere for strolling or simply sitting and thinking.
Like many temples in Kyoto, Kennin-ji's hours vary between seasons. The temple is typically open between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m, with slightly longer hours in March through October. The temple is closed from December 28-31. There is an admission fee of 500 yen ($5 USD) for adults, and there are discounts for students. The temple is a 10-minute walk from Gion Shijo Station on Kyoto's Keihan line.