Konkaikomyoji or Kurodani Temple: Serene Atmosphere in Kyoto, Japan

Kurodani, or its formal name of Konkaikomyo-ji, is a free temple in Northeast Kyoto located near Path of Philosophers. Here, we’ll share photos of Kurodani, info & tips for including this in your Japan itinerary, and why we recommend visiting Konkaikomyoji Temple.

Perched atop Yoshida Hill, which is home to a trio of temples and shrines we love, Kurodani Temple is a Kyoto hidden gem. In fact, we’d go as far as to say it’s a Kyoto must-do for those who want to get away from the touristy side of the city and be rewarded with serene but beautiful temples more commonly frequented by locals. We’ve now made several visits here, and I think we’ve seen a grand total of 1 or 2 other tourists. It’s far from a busy temple to begin with, but most of the people here seem to be using the temple as a shortcut coming from work or school, or neighborhood residents who treat Kurodani as a functioning temple.

I’m actually a bit embarrassed that it’s taken us so long to write about Kurodani Temple, but part of the reason is that it took us a while to “discover” Kurodani. Even though Path of Philosophers is maybe 10 minutes away–and we had seen Korudani from there in the past–it wasn’t until last fall when randomly wandering through Northern Higashiyama that we stumbled upon this temple. Since then, we’ve made numerous return visits, and have come to appreciate its charm…

Part of the reason Konkaikomyo-ji is seldom-visited by tourists is undoubtedly its location. While we noted that it’s a short walk from the Path of Philosophers, it’s a long walk from the nearest train or subway station. In fact, getting to Konkaikomyo-ji from Kyoto Station pretty much requires taking the subway and then transferring to a bus, unless you take a really convoluted subway/train route or are willing to do some serious walking.

We always take the latter approach, and usually take the Keihan Main Line to Jingu-Marutamachi Station, walk somewhere to eat lunch (there are a ton of excellent restaurants in the general vicinity of Okazaki Park/Heian Shrine) and then continue to Konkaikomyo-ji. That’s usually our approach if we’re getting a later start to the day and aren’t really concerned with a tight itinerary.

The best approach for incorporating Konkaikomyo-ji into your day is starting with our 1-Day Eastern Kyoto Itinerary and simply slotting it in between Path of Philosophers and Honenin Temple.

If you look at a map of Kyoto, you’ll see that Konkaikomyo-ji is about halfway up Path of Philosophers, southwest of Honenin Temple. It’s not too inconvenient to that itinerary, and you can stop at an excellent Fresco grocery store in between the two for snacks or a meal.

If you are following our 1-Day Eastern Kyoto Itinerary and sunset occurs well after Silver Pavilion closes (which is going to be the case in summer), a good alternative would be doing that itinerary as normal, and then tacking on Konkaikomyo-ji at the very end.

Sure, this approach will involve some backtracking, but there’s no train or subway station near Silver Pavilion anyway. Konkaikomyo-ji is an incredible vantage for sunset, both of the temple itself and mountains in the distance.

There are also the other locations on Yoshida Hill that look stunning with some golden hour light hitting them, and the grounds of a few of these locations don’t have hard closing times (their buildings do) like the gated temples in Kyoto.

There’s also the added bonus of walking back this direction as it’s en route to strong dinner options. One of our favorite ramen shops in Kyoto–Niboshisoba Ai–is a short walk from this area. This Michelin-recommended restaurant has sardine based broth that’s light yet rich, with nuanced flavor. (Not recommended for ramen novices.)

Now let’s backtrack a bit and offer some basic info about Konkaikomyoji. Above is a map of the temple’s sprawling grounds, which cover a large area given that this is a relatively dense residential area of Kyoto.

All of the grounds are free to enter, save for the garden (top center, with fall colors) behind the main hall, which is not regularly open.

Originally built in 1175, the main hall of Kurodani Temple contains a statue of Honen, its founder. Another one of Kurodani’s treasures is an image of Monju Bosatsu, which is believed to have been made by prominent Kamakura Era sculptor Unkei.

As with most Kyoto temples, Konkaikomyoji has been devastated by fire multiple times, with several buildings being severely damaged or destroyed over the years. The main Buddha Hall was rebuilt by Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1605.

Many buildings are not open to the general public, but the beautiful main hall is–and it’s also free of charge. Until researching Konkaikomyoji after the fact, I would have never known it was rebuilt in 1605, as it seems much newer and doesn’t have quite the same ‘aged’ quality as some of Kyoto’s older temples. Or, perhaps it has been rebuilt more recently and I just missed that detail.

Up and to the east of the main temple complex, there’s a hillside graveyard with graves honoring Aizu clan warriors, who were stationed at Konkaikomyoji during the late Edo Period, and killed in the Battle of Fushimi-Toba. Atop this hill is a pagoda, which is prettier from a distance than up close due to a fence around its base.

Nevertheless, we recommend climbing the many steps past the cemetery and to the base of the pagoda, as the views of Kyoto below are breathtaking. This is a particularly beautiful view at sunset, and one of the Kyoto sunset spots we’d recommend in the summertime when sunset occurs well after temples close.

From this pagoda, there are steps to the left that will take you down an alleyway that provides convenient access to Shinnyodo Temple. Alternatively, you can head the other direction and have easy access to Yoshida Shrine and the large park around Yoshida Hill.

However you get here or choose to spend your time at Kurodani Temple, we think it’s a highly worthwhile and peaceful hidden gem. While it wouldn’t make anyone’s top 10 list for Kyoto (ours included) and doesn’t have any iconic features, it’s big strength is as a prominent neighborhood temple and offers a kind of serene atmosphere that has disappeared from Kyoto’s flagship temples. That ambiance is at the heart of the Kyoto experience, and elevates Kurodani to must-do status.

If you’re planning a trip to the Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend starting by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit! 

Your Thoughts

Have you visited Kurodani Temple? What did you think of the experience? Do you think its authentic ambiance and views make it worth experiencing? Would you recommend it to a first-timer visiting Japan? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Does visiting the temples of Yoshida Hill in Kyoto interest you? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!

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