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Head Temples

Temple Name: Kennin-ji 建仁寺

Mountain Name: Tozan 東山

Address: 584 Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, 605-0811Japan
Tel: 075-561-0190; Fax: 075-561-5777



Kennin-ji was established in 1202 upon the request of Emperor Tsuchimikado 土御門 (r. 1198–1210) and with the support of the Kamakura shogun Minamoto Yoriie 源頼家 (1182–1204), with the Japanese monk Myoan Yosai [Eisai] 明菴榮西 (1141–1215) serving as the founding abbot.

Kennin-ji was first major temple associated with the Rinzai Zen school to be established in Kyoto; its name was taken after that of the imperial era at the time it was established. During Yosai’s abbacy and for a number of generations thereafter the temple combined Zen with Tendai and Shingon practices, but during the tenure of the eleventh abbot, Lanxi Daolong 蘭溪道隆 (J. Rankei Doryu; 1213–1278), it was changed to a purely Zen institution. The temple was originally laid out in the Zen monastic style with seven principal buildings, but in the mid-thirteenth century it suffered a succession of fires, and many of the structures were lost. It was rebuilt by the great Zen master Enni Ben’en 圓爾辯圓 (1201–1280), but was once again destroyed by fires during the sixteenth century. In the seventeenth century donations of buildings by the temples Ankoku-ji 安国寺 and Tofuku-ji 東福寺 helped restore Kennin-ji to its original appearance. Support by the Toyotomi family also helped greatly to restore the temple’s fortunes. 


Kennin-ji is ranked third of the Kyoto Five Mountain monasteries. It presently has fourteen subtemples on the Kennin-ji precincts and about seventy associated temples throughout Japan.

Its notable buildings include the Abbot’s Quarters (Hojo; Important Cultural Property), presented to Kennin-ji by Ankoku-ji in 1599; the Dharma Hall (Hatto), built in 1765; a tea house built in 1587 and associated with Toyotomi Hideyoshi; and the Imperial Messenger Gate (Chokushimon), said to date from the Kamakura era (1185–1333), and still showing marks from arrows.