The head temple of the Ōbaku school of Zen Buddhism, this temple in Uji has a distinctly Ming Chinese influence that sets it apart from many other temples in the area. Founded in 1661, the head priests of this temple were Chinese for thirteen generations. Following Ming architectural style, the layout is sprawling and spacious, with grand paths lined with pines throughout the complex and gilded lanterns hanging from the covered walkways. An image of the familiar Hotei “Laughing Buddha” in gold can be found in the first worship hall, and the second hall contains the main altar and various interesting wooden statues of Buddhist saints. The kaipan, or fish board, near the main hall is a popular symbol of this temple, and still in use today. If you wait, you may be lucky enough to spot a monk come out and use the board to announce the time. Not only a beautiful spot to relax and look around, Manpuku-ji has a variety of cultural experiences available for those interested, such as zazen meditation, sutra copying, and Chinese fucha ryōri cuisine.
Not only a beautiful spot to relax and look around, Manpuku-ji has a variety of cultural experiences available for those interested, such as zazen meditation, sutra copying, and Chinese fucha ryōri cuisine.
With a strong history of Chinese influence, Manpuku-ji’s architecture sets it apart from temples that can begin to look quite similar to the untrained eye. The temple’s layout is said to be designed in the abstract shape of a dragon, and some of the balustrades feature the auspicious Buddhist manji, an equilateral cross with its four points bent. The smaller gates leading in to the temple feature classic Chinese roofing, and long, lantern-lined corridors lead between halls.
Kaipan Fish Board
A wooden percussion instrument in the shape of a large fish, the kaipan (also called gyoban) is traditionally used to mark tasks at the temple, calling monks to assemble for meals, lectures, or fieldwork. It’s said that the kaipan was made in the shape of a fish because fish are said to never sleep/close their eyes, and that alertness is needed in monastic life. Manpuku-ji’s is still in use today, and so has been periodically replaced over the years.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Manpuku-ji is the various Buddhist experiences visitors can take part in. Those who’d like to try out zazen, guided meditation, can make an appointment to receive an explanation from a priest that lasts about 20-30 minutes before practicing themselves. About an hour total, zazen costs only ¥1,000. For the more literary minded, shakyō, or sutra copying, is a technique that people have practiced for centuries in which worshippers hand-copy a sutra and dedicate it to the deities. Also taking approximately an hour, shakkyō costs ¥2,000 per person.
Even those who are into food tourism can enjoy Manpuku-ji, since they also offer fucha ryōri, Chinese style vegetarian cuisine, by reservation. Traditionally monks have eaten a specific diet called shōjin ryōri that follows the Buddhist precepts of not taking lives, meaning that it does not include meat and can be considered vegetarian and vegan. The style of monk cuisine at Manpuku-ji was brought to Japan by the temple’s founder, and can be ordered year round with the exception of busy ritual periods. As long as your party consists of at least two people you can make a reservation for either a ¥3,000 bentō boxed meal or one of two courses priced at ¥5,000 and ¥7,000. This style of food is simple yet elegant, with each part focusing on a single, natural flavor.
Chinese Zen master Yinyuan Longqi (called Ingen Ryūki in Japan, 1592-1673) came to Japan in 1654 at the request of Japanese monks to help revive Zen Buddhist practices after the Warring States period. First serving at temples in Kyushu and Osaka, Ingen received permission in 1661 from the fourth Tokugawa Shogun, Ietsuna, to build a temple in Uji.
Completed over a twenty year period, Manpuku-ji on Mt. Ōbaku was designed and named after Ingen’s home temple in China, Wanfu Temple on Mt. Huangbo. Following Ingen, the next thirteen generations of head abbots at Manpuku-ji were Chinese until 1739, preserving the strong Chinese influence that sets the temple apart from its counterparts.
One of the most prestigious collections at Manpuku-ji, held at the sub-temple Hōzō-in, is made up of about 60,000 carved wooden blocks that were used to print the Ōbaku Zen edition of Buddhist sutras. The monk Tetsugen Dōkō collected donations from around the country in order to fund the printing blocks in 1678, and incredibly they are still in use to this day.
January 1st – 3rd
|New Year’s Ceremonies (Shinnen Nentō Hōyō)|
|Anniversary of the Founder’s Death (Kaisan Shōki)|
May, 3rd Sat., Sun.
|National Sencha Tea Ceremony Competition (Zenkoku Senchadō Taikai)|
July 13th – 15th
|Obon Ceremonies (Chūgen Hōyō)|
|Anniversary of Emperor Go-Mizuno’o’s Death (Hō’ōgi)|
|Moon Viewing Tea Ceremony (Tsukimi no Sencha-kai)|
October, 3rd Fri.
|Chinese Obon Festivities (Fudoshō-e)|
|New Year’s Cleaning (Susuharai)|
|New Year’s Bell Ringing (Joya no Kane)|
〒611-0011 京都府宇治市 五ケ庄三番割34
- General Admission: ¥500
- Junior High School: ¥300
- Primary School: ¥300
- General Admission: 09:00 - 17:00 (last entrance 16:30)
- Closed: No closing days
- JR Nara Line ⇒ Ōbaku Station ⇒ 5 minutes walking
- Keihan Uji Line ⇒ Ōbaku Station ⇒ 5 minutes walking