Kyoto has so many great sights to offer, but there are some less known gems you should check out as well. They are well worth it! Like Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple in the neighborhood of the famous Arashiyama.
Why You Should Visit Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple
Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple (愛宕念仏寺) is located near Kyoto’s famous Arashiyama area, so it’s worth checking out if you’re nearby.
The interesting thing about this temple is that you can find over 1200 rakan (千二百羅漢) stone statues there, representing disciples of Shaka, the founder of Buddhism. Each of them has a unique and rather funny expression. It’s a great opportunity to take hilarious photos!
The statues are rather new as they were donated from 1981-1991 (you’ll even find a statue with a tennis racket!).
But as most of them are covered in moss, they look much older in my eyes.
Most were carved by amateurs from all over the world.
History of Otagi Nenbutsu-ji
It’s a Buddhist Temple found by Empress Shotoku in the middle of the eighth century. The temple has been damaged several times throughout history by natural disasters (typhoon, flooding) and war.
Access to the Temple
Take “Kyoto Bus” # 64, 74, 84 and 94 bound for “Kiyotaki” (清滝行) and get off at “Otagidera-mae” (おたぎでら前).
The bus is leaving from Hankyu Arashiyama Station, Kyoto Sanjo Sta., JR Kyoto Sta. and from a bus stop called “No no Miya” (野の宮) near (5 mins walk) Saga-Arashiyama Station’s south exit.
More info can be found on the official website.
Once you’re at the temple you can enjoy the funny expressions of all 1200 rakan statues.
Somebody once told me that there’s always one statue that looks a bit like yourself. Try to find it!
Considering there are well over a thousand, there’s gotta be one, right?
On the left photo you see Kokuzo Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of space, representing “vast and boundless” wisdom of the whole universe.
There’s a tiny red pagoda surrounded by the rakan statues.
The main hall was built in the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) and is an Important Cultural Property. Inside you’ll find a Yaku-yoke Senju Kannon (a thousand-armed Kannon statue).
Some statues seem really happy about the coins they received. ;)
The one of the right might have been one of my favorites.
Nearby Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple
Really close to Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple is the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple (化野念仏寺, 9:00-16:30, 500 yen).
It’s not that interesting in terms of stone statues, but it has a beautiful bamboo forest!
It’s really just a short walk from the other temple along the beautiful “Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street” which has been preserved in the style of the Meiji Period (1868-1912).
Visiting both temples makes a nice afternoon stroll if you’re in the Arashiyama region already.