Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

May 29, 2012

Honganji Jinaicho (Kyoto Guide)

The area between Higashi Honganji and Nishi Honganji was a temple town administered by the Honganji authorities called Honganji Jinaicho. In the narrow streets between the two huge temple complexes one finds many shops selling Buddhist implements, such as home altars, statues, prayer beads, bells and cushions for bells, glittering ornaments, priestly vestments, etc. Near Higashi Honganji also is a specialist Buddhist bookshop. The main street keading from east to west through this area is called Shomendori. On Horikawa, at the entrance to Shomendori, stands an imposing gate.

[Buddhist shop on Shomendori. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

On Shomendori one also finds Dendoin, a red-brick building designed in 1912 by famous architect Ito Chuta. It belongs to Nishi Honganji and originally housed an insurance company related to the sect. Now it is a free exhibition space of the temple. Note the mosque-like roof and the mythical animals, as well as the unusual masonry, a true mixture of Western and various Eastern elements.

On Horikawa Avenue itself, you will also find several traditional shops, such as a large tsukemono (pickles) shop - a favorite item to take home from Kyoto or give as a present - and Kungyokudo, a traditional incense shop (now in a modern building). Besides various types of incense, it sells scented sachets, candles and kunko, fragrant incense pellets.
Access: The nicest approach is through the traditional gate on Shomendori, opposite Nishi Honganji. It is also possible to walk from Higashi Honganji - in that case go around the temple complex on either the north or south side and then take the first street at the back of the temple either up or down - this is Shinmachi-dori. About halfway Shinmachi-dori you will find the T-crossing with Shomendori.