This year’s cherry blossom season was basically a washout, with many hanami parties cancelled because of the incessant rain. Ninna-ji Temple in western Kyoto, has a special variety of cherry blossom that blooms later than most, but when it was at its best last week, the rain was still coming down. Mewby and I resolved to defy the weather and visit the temple anyway. At least, I thought, the rain will keep the bulk of tourists away. We’ll probably have the place to ourselves. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even in the rain, Ninna-ji Temple is very popular.
Perhaps it is because Ninna-ji is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list as one of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”? It is certainly ancient. Ninna-ji Temple was first built in 888.
Like many Kyoto temples though, the original buildings of Ninna-ji were long ago destroyed by fire. In Ninna-ji’s case the temple was destroyed during the conflict of the Ōnin War in 1467. The majority of the current buildings date from a 17th century restoration.
Most striking of all must be the five storied pagoda…
But the grounds are extensive and there is much to see here.
The Kyōzō (経蔵) or sutra repository had a sign outside describing many treasured wall paintings and Buddhist statuary, yet the building itself was completely locked up. There was however a tiny hole in the wooden walls through which we took a little peak and saw…
The main attraction though was Ninna-ji’s famous orchard of 200 dwarf cherry trees. These date from the early Edo period, so people have been enjoying cherry blossoms here for about 400 years!
This orchard was designated as a national scenic beauty spot in 1924.
Even in the rain, cherry blossoms can gladden the heart!
We enjoyed our trip to Ninna-ji and will certainly go again – but hopefully in better weather!
You can find out more about Ninna-ji Temple at their multi-lingual website here: http://www.ninnaji.or.jp/multilingual_info.html It is also possible to stay at Ninna-ji overnight. You can find out about that here: https://ninnaji.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/staying-overnight-at-ninna-ji/
Getting to Ninna-ji is little complicated but much of the route is quite scenic and pleasant.
To get to Ninna-ji from Kyoto station, take the JR subway to Karasuma-Oike Station and change to the Tozai line. Go as far as Uzumasa-Tenjingawa/Randen-Tenjingawa (it has two names), and then change to the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama line. Take that line as far as Katabiranotsuji and then take the Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano Line as far as Omuro-Ninna-ji. That’s three changes over 46 minutes for 610 yen.
To get to Ninna-ji from the town center take the Hankyu line from Kawaramachi to Sai, then change to the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama line. Take that line as far as Katabiranotsuji and then take the Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano Line as far as Omuro-Ninna-ji. That’s two changes over 45 minutes for 360 yen.
Check for details of train times at: http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/