Hongan-ji Temple was built in 1591 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, as the head temple of the Jodo shin-shu (True Pure Land) sect of Buddhism. However, Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu decided to split the sect into two branches to weaken its influence.
The current Hongan-ji was renamed Nishi-Honganji (West Honganji), and a second temple was to become the head of the second branch and named Higashi-Honganji (East Honganji), founded in 1602.
Nishi-Honganji, which houses several national treasures was registered on the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 1994. It is the headquarters of the Hongan-Ji branch of the Jodo Shin-shu School, with over 10,000 temples and 12 million followers worldwide.
Higashi Hongan-ji, a couple of minutes walk east of Nishi Honganji is the head temple of the Otani branch of Jodo Shin-shu. Bigger than Nishi Hongan-ji, the Higashi Hongan-ji is less impressive artistically. This is probably because it burnt down several times. Its current buildings only date back to 1895. Look for the black rope made from female devotees' hair said to be used to haul the timber for the reconstruction of the buildings in the 19th century! The Founder's Hall of Higashi Hongan-ji is one of the largest wooden structures in the world.
Times and Prices
Admission: FREE to both temples
Hours: 06:00 - 17:30 (Times change a little in winter)
Near Kyoto Station
How to Get There
Both Temples are few minutes walk north of Kyoto Station.