On our first full day in Kyoto, we decided to visit just a few recommended temples and not ALL of them, unless we fall prey to the usual tourists’ “temple fatigue” after seeing ALL the temples in Kyoto. And on top of our list is the Sanjūsangendō Temple, a Buddhist temple in the Higashiyama District of Eastern Kyoto, which most travel bloggers rate as the number one “must see” temple in Kyoto.
To get there, we bought a two-day Kyoto Bus ticket (unlimited bus rides for two consecutive days) for 1,000 Yen that allowed us to get on and off the buses all day long. They have three dedicated bus routes that cover almost all the Kyoto sights – Raku Bus Numbers 100, 101 and 102. It was easy getting to this temple - we took Raku Bus 100 and got off in bus stop number 3 or 4 and we were literally on the doorstep of the temple!
From the outside, this temple certainly looks unattractive – just a plain long one-storey wooden structure. The temple’s name Sanjūsangendō literally means “Hall with thirty three spaces between columns”, describing the architecture of the long main hall of the temple.
What is truly amazing with this Buddhist temple is what is inside this seemingly simple structure: the 33 bays hold 1,001 statues of Kannon-Bosatsu (buddha)! Each of the 1,000 images is life-sized, carved out of wood and leafed in gold and 500 each stand to the right and to the left of the principal image of Kannon which is in the center and stands 11 feet tall. This is a sight to behold!
Unfortunately, photography is strictly forbidden inside the temple so I do not have any photos of my own. It would have been literally a treasure-trove of beautiful images! Seeing all 1,000 buddhas in 5 rows, neatly arranged alternately … WOW. Truly an amazing sight.
There is a small covered wash area in the temple grounds where you purify yourself by scooping water using a wooden scoop and pouring it over your hands. Notice the red clothing over the statues? These are offering to all the unborn fetuses.
The outside courtyard of the temple is so serene. Orange is again a dominant color here.
So when in Kyoto, make this temple your number one stop. You will not regret it.
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