Hyakumanben Chion-Ji

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji is Kyoto’s “Temple of One Million Prayers”. With 1000-year-old monthly rituals, quaint handicraft markets, and expansive grounds to offer a peaceful respite from the main tourist crowd, it’s no wonder you’d want to return to Hyakumanben Chion-Ji – a million times over.

Monthly handicraft market with local crafts, antiques & food

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - handicraft market
Image credit: @kobe_studies_meister_in_kyoto

On the 15th of every month, Hyakumanben Chion-ji Temple comes to life as the Hyakumanben Tetsukuri Ichi (百万遍さんの手づくり市; Hyakumanben Handicraft Market) is held. 

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - jam cabinet
Image credit: @up_884448

As you make your way through the temple grounds, you’ll find all sorts of unique handcrafted items – clothing, jewellery, kitchenware, horticulture, accessories, and freshly baked pastries.  Budding artisans also display their talents through ceramics, glassware, and paintings. 

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - handmade ceramic cats
Image credit: Wu Fan

Most adorably, you’ll also find cat-themed goods such as cat-shaped ceramic chopsticks rests. 

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - little purses
Image credit: Wu Fan

Whimsical trinkets and vintage knick-knackscat the market, such as miniature leather suitcases, evoke an odd sense of nostalgia. If you look around, chances are you’d find special souvenirs that have unique stories to tell. 

The market runs from 8am to 4pm, so go early, bring an empty bag, and an even bigger stomach.

Historic temple of a million prayers

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - main hall
Image adapted from: @brobdingnag_ykh

Hyakumanben (百万遍) translates to “one million times”. Origins of the name can be traced  back to 1331, when Kyoto City was plagued by sickness after an earthquake. To save the ancient capital from the epidemic, Chion-ji’s head priest Zenna Kuen conducted a 7-day service, during which Namu Amida Butsu (南無阿弥陀仏) was recited a million times. 

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - majestic view of temple
Image credit: @kimmy.lovekyoto

The title “Hyakumanben” was bestowed upon Chion-ji by Emperor Go-Daigo thereafter for its services to the people. Hyakumanben Chion-Ji also became the founding temple of “One Million Recitations of Nembutsu”.

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - front gate
Image credit: @carry.613

The historical significance of Hyakumanben Chion-Ji is further cemented by its position as the Grand Head Temple of the Jōdo Sect, which is a branch of Pure Land Buddhism and the most widely practiced branch of Buddhism in Japan. 

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - juzu
Image adapted from: Judy C

Till today, Hyakumanben Chion-ji commemorates hyakumanben prayers every month. During the ceremony, worshippers stand in a circle and pass along an impressive 110m-long juzu (数珠; Buddhist rosary) with 1080 prayer beads. 

Visitors are free to join the ceremony, which is held on the 15th every month except in August, when it is happening on the 25th instead. 

Scenic grounds for spiritual reflection & sakura viewing

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - spacious grounds
Image credit: @glicina_chuan11

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji is located in Kyoto’s Hyakumanben area, which is known for being a lively university town. The spacious temple grounds offer a peaceful respite for those looking to take a breather from the more energetic surrounding districts. 

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - sakura
Image credit: @carry.613

This location is also a hidden gem where one can enjoy cherry blossom-viewing without having to jostle for a prime hanami spot. 

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - sakura with stone lanterns
Image credit: @ukat_travel_stroll

The sakura in full bloom creates peaceful floral backdrops for the bonshō (梵鐘; temple bells) and tōrō (灯籠; ornate stone lanterns).

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - autumn view
Image credit: @hideki57 

A less common but equally beautiful time to visit is during the momiji period, from mid-October to early December, when leaves deck the temple grounds in vibrant shades of red. 

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - sculpted gardens
Image adapted from: Ueyakato landscape

Take a walk through the temple and you’ll find zen gardens with elements arranged to express Buddhist teachings. The scenic stone pieces symbolise 4 modes of practice to enter Pure Land paradise.

Getting to Hyakumanben Chion-Ji

Hyakumanben Chion-Ji - another view of gate
Image adapted from: @glicina_chuan11

If you’d like a scenic and spiritual refuge mid-travel, take a bus ride to Hyakumanben bus stop, then a short walk past Hyakumanben Crossing. 

Getting there: Take bus 206 or 17 from Kyoto Station and alight at Hyakumanben bus stop. From there, a 200m-walk northwards through Hyakumanben Crossing will bring you to the temple’s entrance. 

Address: 103 Tanaka Monzencho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City, 606-8225 Kyoto
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily
Contact: 0757-81-9171 | Hyakumanben Handicraft Market website

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Cover image adapted from: @victor_leonhard, @miicco7a, @kimmy.lovekyoto

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