- Learn about the multifaceted religious and artistic atmosphere in Japan
Shunkōin Temple (Temple of the Ray of Spring Ray) is a sub-temple in the Myōshinji temple complex (near Ryoanji Temple, the Golden Pavilion, and Ninaji Temple) in Kyoto, Japan. The temple was established in 1590 by Yoshiharu Horio, who was a feudal lord, or daimyō, of Matsue in present-day Shimane Prefecture. Because the temple is located in the center of the biggest temple complex in Kyoto, you can enjoy peace and silence, even though you are still inside of Kyoto City.
This temple houses important historical objects that reflect the multifaceted religious and artistic atmosphere in Japan from the sixteenth century onward.
The Bell of Nanbanji is a Jesuit bell made in Portugal in 1577. This bell tells us about the history of Christianity in Japan during the 16th century and about the political and economic relationship between Japan and Europe, especially Portugal and Spain. The bell is designated as National Important Cultural Properties and tells us the early history of Christianity in Japan.
The Edo period (between 1603 and 1867) was the dark age of Japanese Christians. Christianity was banned, and Christians were systematically eliminated by the Tokugawa shogunate, or Edo bakufu. However, some Christians kept their faith and hid their religious identity. Those hidden Christians made their crosses and graves cleverly to resemble the Buddhist statues, pagodas, and stone lanterns. Shunkōin's hidden Christian lantern is one of those religious objects.
The Garden of Bolders, or Sazareishi-no-niwa, is the main garden of Shunkōin. The theme of the garden is the Great Shrine of Ise in Mie Prefecture. The Great Shrine of Ise is the head shrine of all Shinto shrines in Japan. This garden houses a shrine to Toyouke-no-ōmikami, a goddess of agriculture. It is common to see Buddhist and Shintō objects enshrined at the same place in Japan because until the the Meiji period (in the late 19th and early 20th century), it was a popular belief in Japan that Shintō deities are various forms of the Buddha that existed to save people.
Several sliding door panels at Shunkōin were painted by Eigaku Kanō. Some of the paintings have Confucian teachings as their theme. Confucianism was very important to samurai, or warriors, during the Edo period because Confucianism taught samurai about honor, loyalty, and honesty.
Shunkōin was one of the most important places in Japanese Buddhist philosophy in the early 20th century. D. T. Suzuki and Hōseki S. Hisamatsu, who are two of the most famous Japanese Zen Buddhist philosophers, discussed the future of Japanese Buddhism at this temple. Especially, Hōseki S. Hisamatsu lived in the guest house of Shunkōin and wrote several his books. There are azaleas planted by D.T. Suzuki in the front garden of Shunkōn.
Shunkōin not only offers visitors an opportunity to learn about Rinzai Zen Buddhism, but also to see valuable objects representative of important epochs in Japanese history. All tours and Zen meditation classes are given in English by an American-educated vice-abbot.
Around Shunkōin Temple
The temple is also located near Ryōanji Temple, which is famous for its Zen rock garden, and Ninnaji Temple. Both temple are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites and 10 minutes away from Shunkoin Temple on foot.
Visiting Shunkōin Temple
You can also visit Shunkōin Temple. You will have an extraordinary experiance here. To book your class and tour, please call or email us in English.
This Zen experience course is recommended by the JAPAN TIMES.
Oshorai-mukae is the beginning of the Obon holyday in Buddist tradition. Oshorai-mukae
literally means "welcome our ancestors' spirits at home". Hundreds of vendors are in Myōshinji Temple and attract thousands of poeple during the Obon holiday.