Some of the best of Kyoto is free. Nishiki market immediately comes to mind, as does the eastern edge of the city, where the Philosopher’s Path runs from Ginkakuji along a quiet little stream all the way to majestic Nanzenji. Just south of the hill where Daimonji’s giant “Dai” kanji appears as if branded on the slopes is another attraction of no small merit: Honenin Temple.

Although the grounds are not particularly spacious, the main entry gate with its moss-covered thatched roof is postcard perfect, especially in the autumn when crimson leaves from the maples flutter down. The blaze of light from the courtyard beyond can make it seem ethereal at times.

On ascending the steps, Byakusadan (white-sand terrace) comes into view. These two sculptured mounds of sand are meant to purify visitors, much like the basins of water that most temples and shrines have. A restored lecture hall sits to the right, often hosting amateur art exhibitions and concerts. The main hall beyond a small foot bridge is closed to the public except for the first week in April and November. Guests are welcome to relax on the steps and breathe in the serenity.

An adjoining graveyard gives rest to several notable figures, the great novelist Tanizaki Jun’ichiro being perhaps the most famous. He is said to have admired the beautiful camellia blooms that fell onto the approach to the temple. His gravestone is surprisingly humble, located just beneath a cherry tree. Visitors can get a map to the graveyard from the reception window at the main hall.





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