Home Attractions Enryakuji Temple (Mount Hieizan)

Enryakuji Temple (Mount Hieizan)

Located in Kyoto's eastern mountain range on Mount Hieizan, Enryakuji is one of the most important monasteries in Japanese history.

It is the headquarters of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism, which served as the foundation for a number of later sects including the Pure Land (Jodo), Zen and Nichiren sects.

Enryakuji was founded in 788 by Saicho, the monk who used his learnings of Chinese Buddhism to found the Tendai sect. At its peak, Enryakuji had as many as 3000 subtemples and a powerful army of warrior monks who often engaged in power struggles with other monasteries and political leaders.

On his way to remove all potential rivals and unite the country, Oda Nobunaga attacked and destroyed most of Enryakuji's buildings in 1571. Therefore, most of today's temple buildings date back to the early Edo Period, when Enryakuji was rebuilt by the new rulers.

Enryakuji's attractions are concentrated in three areas: Todo (east area), Saito (west area) and Yokawa. The main area is the Todo area, where the temple was founded and where most of the main buildings are located, including the Main Hall (Kompon Chudo) and the Amida Hall, which was added to the complex in 1937.

A pleasant walking trail through the forest connects the Todo with the Saito area, whose main building is the Shaka Hall, the oldest building on the mountain. Not far away stands the Ninai Hall, two halls connected to each other by a central corridor. A monk named Benkei, known for his legendary strength, is said to once have carried the hall on his shoulders.

The third main area, the Yokawa area, is located several kilometers north of the other two areas, and is visited by fewer people. Its main building, the Yokawa Central Hall, is partially built on a slope using pillars.

Enryakuji is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the protected areas under the designated "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto". The temple is a significant site in Japan's cultural history. Many influential monks studied at Enryakuji, and the temple is mentioned in works of art such as The Tale of Genji.

How to get there

Enryakuji is located on Mount Hieizan, which lies on the border of Kyoto Prefecture and Shiga Prefecture. The mountain can be ascended from either the Kyoto side by Eizan Cablecar, or from the Shiga side by Sakamoto Cablecar. There is also a toll road that leads up to the temple, which is used by buses.
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