The Unryu-zu (Dragon in the Clouds) painting by Tanyu Kano, 8 years in the making
In 1337, the Emperor-turned-monk Hanazono founded the temple from a detached palace with Egen Kanzan starting the head temple. Myoshin-ji is the headquarters of the Myoshin-ji branch of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism with 3400 temples nationwide. Within its vast grounds, there are 46 sub-temples, many of which are Important Cultural Properties and a garden which has been designated as a Place of Scenic Beauty. There is the singular Sanmon gate lacquered in vermillion, and on the ceiling of the Hatto lecture hall, there is the Unryu-zu, a painting 12 meters in diameter that took Tanyu Kano 8 years to create. In addition, there is the Ojikicho, Japan’s oldest surviving bell that was cast in 698, the Yokushitsu bath house which was built for the memorial service of General Mitsuhide Akechi, and many other highlights. The Yokushitsu bath house was built more than 400 years ago in 1587 by monks associated with the uncle of Mitsuhide Akechi in honor of his late nephew, and is also called the Akechi Baths. Unlike contemporary bath houses, it was a sauna with a cauldron boiling the water which flowed under the floor of the bath house. The steam rose through gaps in the floor creating a steam bath and then after the user sweated, he would wash off the sweat with the hot water in the bathing area. There was also a bell constructed to alert people when the bath was ready.
National Treasures that cannot be missed
Three of the sub-temples that are usually open to the public are Keishun-in, Taizo-in, and Daishin-in. In particular, Taizo-in has the National Treasure-designated India-ink painting “Hyonen-zu”, the dry landscape garden “Motonobu-no-Niwa” by painter Motonobu Kano, and the Yoko-en, a garden that took landscape gardener Kinsaku Nakane 3 years to build. In spring there are the weeping cherry trees and the beautiful leaves of autumn, and you can enjoy matcha tea and Japanese confections at a leisurely pace while viewing the garden from the tea house.