Situated on Mt. Takao northwest of Kyoto City proper, Jingo-ji is a Shingon Buddhist temple that worships Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha. Because of the temple's location in the rural mountainside, the scenery is quite lovely, and the temple is famous for its autumn colors. Within the Kondō hall is an impressive show of Buddhist statuary, and the atmosphere is heavy with reverence. The grounds themselves are spacious and offer various sights and halls to investigate, and paths lead through the woods off to sub-shrines and a clifftop viewing point. One of the more fun activities at Jingo-ji is flinging a ceramic yaku-yōke plate from the cliff into the mountain valley below to ward off misfortune. The stone steps leading up to the temple can be quite daunting, but there are restaurants and areas to rest along the way for those who need a breather. Despite its distance, Jingo-ji and surrounding temples offer a great, nature-filled escape from the more crowded city center.
Because of the temple's location in the rural mountainside, the scenery is quite lovely, and the temple is famous for its autumn colors
Stairs to the Sanmon Gate
Unfortunately for the exercise-challenged, Jingo-ji can only be approached by a long staircase made of three hundred and fifty large stones. The staircase meanders up the mountainside back in on itself until finally reaching the top, and can take some time to climb depending on the crowds and your athletic abilities. However, there are various restaurants and shops on the way for those who would prefer to take it easy (though they may not be open in winter). At the top of the stairs is the temple’s two-storied gate as well as the ticket counter. Maple trees and mountain flora shade travelers from the sun and provide a splash of color against the muted stone and wood tones.
Kondō Main Hall
Though Jingo-ji has vast grounds with multiple halls, the one most visitors head towards is the Kondō, which is located atop another (more brief) flight of stairs. This staircase is particularly scenic in the fall when the maple leaves framing it turn a brilliant red. The Kondō hall houses the temple’s treasures, such as the National Treasure statue of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha thought to aid healing. Numerous gorgeous statues line the walls in this imposing hall, and the details on each are worth examining.
A peculiar and yet amazingly fun tradition at Jingo-ji is that of “kawarake-nage”, taking small ceramic plates (kawarake) and throwing them (nageru) from the Jizō-in down into the Kinunkei valley below. People believe that you transfer your bad luck to the ceramic and it serves as a mayoke, a charm against evil, which you then throw away from you. Tossing away your bad luck isn’t just potentially good for your future, but it can be an exciting attempt at sports science as you try to figure out the best way to fling the small plates out into the breathtaking valley below. Advice from the abbot himself is to throw it like a Frisbee, slanting slightly downwards rather than throwing up, and holding it lightly in your thumb and pointer finger as if making the letter “C”. People aim for the river below, but as long as you can get your bad luck away from you and out in to the valley, maybe that’s enough! Two hundred yen get you three small plates (as of February 2018).
The history of Jingo-ji begins with Wake no Kiyomaro, a famous Buddhist statesman from the Nara Period famous for preserving the imperial line and purportedly responsible for the choice of Kyoto as the country's capital. Wake no Kiyomaro originally constructed this temple in 781 to pray for the peace and prosperity of the nation, giving it the name Takaosan-ji. The famous monk Saichō, founder of the popular Tendai sect of Buddhism, was invited to Takaosan-ji in 802 and began lecturing to the priests of the country, tapped by Wake no Kiyomaro’s son and the emperor as a promising young monk. Saichō was in correspondence with another up and coming monk who had gone to China for study at the same time, Kūkai, later founder of the Shingon sect, and arranged for him to be brought to Takaosan-ji in 809. The two influential monks worked well together for a time, Kūkai even initiating Saichō in important esoteric Buddhist teachings, but a disagreement in 813 over the nature of their relationship and the intersection of their sects led to a falling out between them.
In 824, two years after Saichō’s death, Takaosan-ji went through a merger with a temple from Wake no Kiyomaro’s birthplace, Jingan-ji, and was renamed Jingo Kokuso Shingon-ji… or Jingo-ji for short. Kūkai took the role of chief priest and established Jingo-ji as a Shingon sect temple, which it has remained until this day.
Jingo-ji gained a reputation for beautiful autumn scenery and is mentioned in famous poetry. All its buildings except the Daishi-dō hall were razed in the Ōnin War (1467–1477), but the temple underwent major reconstruction in 1623 with patronage from the noble lord and Tokugawa shogunate deputy Itakura Katsushige. A more recent project was carried out in the 1930’s with support from Gendō Yamaguchi (1862-1937), a wealthy merchant and financier.
Despite the damages Jingo-ji still possesses a wealth of artifacts and records from centuries previous, some over a thousand years old. In fact, Jingo-ji is the owner of 17 National Treasures and 2,833 Important Cultural Properties. Some of these items can be seen by the general public depending on the season and special events held by the temple.
May 1st – May 5th
|Temple Treasures Shown to the Public|
May 13th – May 15th
|Exhibition of Tahōtō Pavilion Buddhist Statuary|
October (Sat., Sun., and Mon. of Taiiku no Hi)
|Exhibition of Tahōtō Pavilion Buddhist Statuary|
|Mt. Takao Fall Illumination|
〒616-8292 京都府京都市 右京区梅ケ畑高雄町5
- General Admission: ¥600
- Junior High School, High School: ¥600
- Elementary School: ¥300
- General Admission: 09:00 – 16:00
- Closed: No closing days