Twin Buddha images greet travelers at the old temple from the Heian period
(c) Yokoyama Photo OfficeThe name Nison-in, meaning "two revered images," derives from the temple's two principal standing images, Shaka Nyorai on the obervers' right and Amitabha Tathagata on the left. Both are designated as Important Cultural Assets of Japan. The 78.8 cm-high statues appear to be symmetric at a glance but are with subtle differences such as the shape of their fingers, which are infused with religious meaning. The two images are there because Syaka Nyorai sends those who've died from this life to the afterlife while Amitabha Tathagata welcomes them into Pure Land (Buddhist heaven.)
The temple was built between 834 and 847 during the Heian period but burnt down to ashes during the Onin War (1467-1477: a large civil war fought by samurai warriors, which spread from Kyoto to the most part of Japan.) Later, Honen, famous Buddhist monk who popularized Buddhism in Japan, and his disciples such as Tanku reconstructed some buildings including the main hall and Chokushi-mon gate.
Some believe that Shigure-tei, a mountain retreat where Fujiwara Teika, a famous waka poet born in 1162, compiled "one hundred waka poems" was here.
A large number of graves of court nobles, the second highest class after the imperial family in the ancient class society, indicate the prestige of the temple. In the neighborhood famous for red-tinged autumn leaves and rich greenery, Nison-in temple is steeped in history.
Address: 27 Saganisonin-monzen-cho-jincho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto
Hours open to visitors: 9:00-16:30
Admission Fee: 500 yen (for admission)
Directions: Train: 15 minutes by foot from JR Sanin Honsen Saga-Arashiyama Station (17 minutes from Kyoto Station) or; 26 minutes by city bus Line 28 from Tokaido Shinkansen Kyoto Station to Saga-Syakado-mae and 10 minutes by foot
Car: One hour from Kyoto-Higashi or Kyoto-minami Interchange on the Meishin Expressway