Just off the Philosopher’s Path, lies a temple that doesn’t seem to be of this world.
Honen-in Temple was established in 1680 to honour the Priest Honen, the founder of the Jodo sect of Buddhism. Two raised sand mounds with seasonal motifs drawn on them, guard the temple’s entrance. Monks care for these ‘byakusadan’, said to symbolize purification. The roof of the gate is thatched and there is a pond that’s very still. A graveyard close by extends upwards to the hills. Tanizaki Junichiro, the famous writer, rests here, along with many other notable beings.
The main hall is open only a few days in the spring and fall. But the grounds are free to visit all year long.
In a city with 1600 temples, it is hard for one of them to leave an impression. But Honen-in does so. There are old, tall trees towering all around. The bamboo grove rattles in the wind. A deer stands looking at you from the distance. There is so much ‘Earth’ in Honen-in that it feels unearthly, somehow removed from reality.
You will have to be excused when you pinch yourself from time to time, wondering if you have entered a dream world by error.