If you enjoy to experience an extremely new concept of religion in Japan, a kind of grand religion, religion expressed in a large scale, all your ways should lead you to Chionin temple in Higashiyama area of Kyoto. Among hundreds religious sites in Kyoto, Chionin has several secrets to make itself special nad unique. People often call Chionin temple as the Vantican of Pure land Buddhism because it is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Buddhism. Chionin usualy ranks high places among recommended temples and shrines around Kyoto, considered as one of the largest and most important religious headquarters across Japan.
The former site of Chionin originally built as a priests living quarter in 1175 by the monk Honen. To tell a story of Honen, he was a teacher of Pure Land theory who strongly believed that people could be reborn in a paradise of nirvana by calling on Amida Buddha in faith. This beautiful belief along with his simple teachings contributed to the popularity of Jodo sect, little by little becoming one of the most familiar sect of Buddhism in Japan. In 1212, Honen fasted to death then 22 years later, Chionin temple was constructed in such a significantly large structure in 1234. One more noticeable thing is that the temple was chosen for impressive scenes in the famous film The last samurai starring Tom Cruise in 2002.
Initially, Chionin had an amazing structure of about 21 buildings but fires and earthquakes took almost all the parts away, leaving the main hall Hondo and the Abbot's Quarters Daihojo as the oldest buildings of the temple. Even the temple lost its original figure, it remains impressive. The Samon gate is an typical example. The two-storied structure reaches the tallness of 24 meters, recognized as the largest wooden temple gate in Japan. Samon gate forces every visitors coming to Chionin no matter how many times they have visited the temple to head up to admire its splendid appearance created by eye catching details and patterns. The gate becomes most imposing and quiet under luxuriant foliage of red leaves in auturm.
Through Samon gate, there is a steep flight of stairs leading to a square then you stand in front of the main hall which is huge enough to hold about 3000 people. Visitors are advised to take off their shoes, step in to join in the chanting of priests inside the hall. In this large space, you may hear the light voice of hearts and minds reflecting inside the hall. More than gorgeous buildings, Chionin temple is most famous for the nightingale corridor leading to the Asembly hall behind the main hall. Everytime you take a step, you can hear the floor singing lika a bird. Other parts of Chionin temple are the storehouse of sculptures Kyozo, the hall of Honden Mieido, Shohojo, the gate of Imperial messengers Chokushimon and the kitchen Kuri. Chionin also well known for its 70 ton bell, the heaviest in Japan. At New year Eve, 17 monks wil ring the bell 108 times to welcome luck and happiness for all Kyoto people.