The Honen-In Temple Gate, seen form inside the temple grounds

This is definitely one of my favorite temples in Kyoto. Honen-in, is small, only fully opens twice a year for a short one-week period, but it is a very special place for its atmosphere and its calm beauty. Its entrance gate is quite spectacular especially during the autumn leaf season and is worth a visit by itself.

Passing through the entry gate, which is covered with moss, you’ll see two small mounds of sand on both sides of the path. These sand mounds purify one’s body and soul. Usually temples or shrines have a basin to wash hands at their entrance, but this temple has these sand mounds instead. Every three or four days a monk draws a new pattern on the mounds in the early morning. One day they look like waves on water, while on another day they may look like the shapes of flowers or the shapes of maple leaves, and so on. 

This temple is a not to be missed iconic photo spot of Kyoto during the Fall.  It is also a refreshing place to relax from the crowd of the Philosopher’s Path during the Spring.