Entsu-ji, a remarkable imperial heritage, home to a beautiful dry garden with the borrowed scenery of the sacred Mount Hiei-zan

Entsu-ji Temple(圓通寺), located north of Kyoto was founded in 1678 on the exact site of a former emperor’s villa, retired Emperor Go-mizunoo (1596-1680). It later became a Zen Buddhist monastery.

Entsu-ji is well known for its dry garden. The garden is made of forty rocks surrounded by moss beds with maple trees on each side, and a row of tall cedar trees and camellias. In the background of the garden, you can see the outline of Mount Hiei-zan a few kilometers away. Entsu-ji’s garden is a fine example of a “borrowed scenery” or “shakkei”, incorporating Mount Hiei-zan in the background so as it actually looks like a part of the garden.

The garden was designated as a National Place of Scenic Beauty. The view is particularly beautiful in autumn, when the maple leaves turn red. The original gardens are believed to have been designed either by Emperor Go-Mizunoo himself or Kobori Enshu. Today, the garden you see was restored after World War II when it had fallen into disrepair.

Entsu-ji is located just north of Kitayama away from other tourist attractions but worth the trip for a beautiful scenery unspoiled by the crowd. It is a nice and quiet place, a 25-minute walk from the station, in a typical residential area of Kyoto.


Entsu-ji was built by Emperor Go-Mizunoo in the 17th century as a villa and named “Hataeda Palace.” The emperor had been searching for more than a decade for the ideal place to practice of Zen Buddhism.

In 1678, the villa was converted into a temple by Enkoinbunei, a former attendant of the Emperor’s mother. The tenth head priest of the Myoshinji School of Rinzai Zen Buddhism became the first head priest of Entsuji Temple.

Entsu-ji Temple(圓通寺)

Address : 389 Hataeda-cho, Iwakura, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto

Hours : 10:00 to 16:30 (April – November), 10:00 to 16:00 (December – March)

Admission : 500 yen

Access : Take either the Eizan Railways from Demachiyanagi Station to Seika Daigakumae, or the Karasuma subway line to Kitayama Station – a 25-minute walk from either stations to Entsu-ji.

From Kyoto Station : Take bus No.45 for about 40 minutes and get off at Entsuji Michi stop – a ten-minute walk from there.

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