A Tendai temple with the faith of the common people and women
The origins of Shinnyo-do go back beyond the 1st century. In the year 984, Kaisan Shonin established the temple when he moved the statue of Amida Nyorai which had been enshrined at Enryaku-ji Temple to Kaguraoka in Kyoto. As a place of training for fudan nenbutsu (constant invocation), ascetics and regular people especially women came to patronize the temple. However the temple buildings were burned down due to the frequent fires during the Onin War. Afterwards, the site of the temple was moved repeatedly, finally settling down in its current location in 1693. Admission to the inner shrine, parlor and garden of the main hall is free and can be toured within 30-40 minutes.
The principal image of the Amida Nyorai, unveiled just once a year
In the inner shrine of the main hall, the principal image of the Amida Nyorai is enshrined. It is known as the oldest surviving standing statue of the Amida Nyorai which has the alternate name of Unazuki-no-Amida or the Nodding Amida. There is a story in which if a prayer asking for practitioners to be protected is made, the Amida Nyorai would shake its head while if a prayer asking for the people, especially women, to be saved is made, then it would nod its head. Usually, the doors to the inner shrine are closed but from November 5th to the 15th, they are opened during the Buddhist memorial service of Ojuya. And it is only on the 15th that the Amida Nyorai can be approached closely. In addition, from 2 p.m. on that day, the Ojuya is brought to a close. People as diverse as monks and children join the procession moving within the temple.
A famous place for fall foliage, painted in brilliant colors of red and gold
Shinnyodo is very famous as a place to see the fall colors. The stone-paved path that starts from in front of the main hall and drops to the west becomes a tunnel of autumn leaves where you can enjoy a scenery not unlike that in a painting. Although it depends on the year, the peak for the fall colors within the temple is from late November to early December. The peak of the autumn season is one highlight but the scenery after that is also superb. Around the Tourou Daiishi (Lantern Pedestal) at the back of the main hall, there is a scarlet-red carpet of fallen leaves. Almost all of the autumn foliage can be seen for free, but the Nehan-no-Niwa (Nirvana Garden) which requires admission is recommended. And the collage of the dry landscape garden and the mountains of Higashiyama make for a poetic beauty.