Nishi Hongan-ji Temple (西本願寺)

Nishi Hongan-ji Temple is a Honzan (Head Temple) of the Hongan-ji branch of Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) located in Shimogyo-ku Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. Its formal name is Hongan-ji. It is often referred to a 'Nishi Hongan-ji Temple' or 'Onishi-san' in order to differentiate it from Higashi Hongan-ji Temple (officially named Shinshu Honbyo) which is also situated in Kyoto's Shimogyo-ku Ward.

The memorial service marking the 750th anniversary of the death of Shinran Shonin is scheduled to be held at Hongan-ji Temple's Goei-do Hall on April 9, 2011.


Hongan-ji Temple originated after the death of sect founder Shinran Shonin when his youngest daughter Kakushinni had a mausoleum constructed in what is modern-day Rinka-cho, Higashiyama-ku Ward, Kyoto City (in the vicinity of the Sotaiin sub-temple of Chionin Temple) into which his remains were interred in 1272. The mausoleum hall was later demolished due to internal discord but was reconstructed by the 3rd head priest Kakunyo and named Senshu-ji Temple before going on to be renamed Hongan-ji Temple. Following this, the temple was relocated several times but was eventually moved from Tenman to its current site in Horikawa Rokujo in 1591 after land was donated by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI.
The mausoleum hall was relocated to Nishi-otani, Higashiyama Gojozaka at the beginning of the Edo period to become what is today 'Otani Honbyo.'

Land to the east of Hongan-ji Temple was donated by Kyonyo, son of the 11th head priest Kennyo and when Hongan-ji temple was divided into east and west in 1602, Kyonyo named the temple that he founded Shinshu Honbyo, resulting in Hongan-ji Temple becoming commonly known as Nishi Hongan-ji Temple.

(Please see the article on Hongan-ji Temple for details regarding the history before the split into east and west.)

At the end of the Edo period the temple also became a base of the Shinsengumi, a group of swordsmen charged with the protection of Kyoto. Until now, there have been no major changes within the temple precinct but the Kosho School of Jodo Shinshu Sect ceded the south of the precinct when it became independent in 1876. In recent years, the former site of Honkoku-ji Temple (Nichiren Sect Head Temple, relocated to Yamashina-ku Ward) in the northern part of the precinct has been purchased. The site of the temple itself has not been relocated for over 400 years.

Cultural Properties

Within the temple grounds remain numerous buildings and gardens representing typical examples of Momoyama period culture, and the precinct has been designated a historic site. In December 1994, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Cultural Heritage Site) as part of the {Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto}. The positioning and structures of the buildings are typical of Jodo Shinshu Sect and the Goei-do Hall housing a statue of Shinran Shonin is larger than the main hall. The Goei-do Hall built in 1636 underwent large scale renovations in 1800 and again between 1999 and December 2008.

National Treasures

Shoin (meeting room and Hakushoin (Haku Library))

North Noh stage

Kuroshoin (private residential quarters) and connecting corridor: 2 structures

Hiunkaku: One of the "Kyo no Sankaku" (Three Great Pavilions of Kyoto) along with Kinkaku (Rokuon-ji Temple) and Ginkaku (Jisho-ji Temple).

Karamon Gate

Monochrome ink painting on paper portrait of Shinran Shonin (Kagami no Goei);Tsuketari (attachments): Color on silk portrait of Shinran Shonin (Anjo no Goei), Color on silk portrait of Shinran Shonin (Anjo no Goei copy)

"Amidakyo chu" (Commentaries on the Amida Sutra) written by Shinran

Kumano Kaishi (11 letters written by Emperor Gotoba); Tsuketari: 1 accompanying letter written by Imperial Prince Fushimi-no-miya Sadaatsu, 1 accompanying letter written by Masaaki ASUKAI

37 volumes of Nishihonganji-bon Sanjurokuninkashu (Nishi Hongan-ji version of poetry collection of 36 poets); Tsuketari: Emperor Gonara nyobo hosho (letter sent by court ladies by Imperial order)

Important Cultural Properties


Main hall (Goei-do Hall)

Amida-do hall

Entrance hall, Nami-no-Ma (Wave Room), Tora-no-Ma (Tiger Room), Taiko-no-Ma (Drum Room) (single structure)

Noh stage; Tsuketari Hashigakari passageway

Bath house (Kokakudai); Tsuketari corridor


Fine and Industrial Art Objects

Color on paper portraits of Shinran, Nyoshin and Kakunyo

2 color on paper portrait of Zenshin Shonin (Rina version)

Bronze bell (temple bell)

2 volumes of "Tannisho" (Notes lamenting deviations) copied and written the postscript by Rennyo

6 volumes of "Ken Jodo Shinjitsu-kyo Gyosho Monrui" (Selected passages revealing the true teaching, practice and attainment of the Pure Land)

"Fushimi Tenno Shinkan Kashu" (Collection of poetry written by Emperor Fushimi) (99 poems)

15 volumes of "Eiga Monogatari" (A Tale of Flowering Fortunes)

10 Autographic letters written by Eshinni to Kakushinni

2 volumes and 3 scrolls of writings related to Shonyo Shonin, Kyokkan (the most highest rank)

2 autographic letters written by Shinran

11 volumes and 56 books of the autographic book "Tenbun Nikki" (diary of Shonyo Kokyo)

12 volumes of 'Hongan-ji Goei-do Rusushiki Rekidai yuzurijo' (successive documents about giving up the position of Rusushiki (custodian or caretaker of Shinran's Mausoleum at Otani) of Goei-do Hall of Hongan-ji Temple) (18 sheets)

Special Scenic Spot

Hongan-ji Temple Daishoin Garden (Historic Site)

Place of Scenic Beauty

Tekisui-en Garden

Head Priests

Kozui OTANI: 22nd head priest
Led the Otani Expeditions to Buddhist sites in western regions of China.

Koshin OTANI: Current head priest (also referred as Sokunyo)

Branch Temples

Please refer to the article regarding Jodo Shinshu Sect Hongan-ji School branch temples and teaching halls.

Tsukiji Betsuin (branch temple) of Hongan-ji Temple: Built in 1617 by 12th head priest Junnyo as a branch temple of Nishi Hongan-ji Temple.

Saginomori Betsuin of Hongan-ji Temple: Built in 1467 by 8th chief priest Rennyo.


Take the Kyoto City Subway Karasuma Line to Gojo Station.

[Original Japanese]