Adashi-no-Nenbutsu Temple is said to have been founded by the venerable Kukai around the 8th century. It is believed that about 8000 stone images and pagodas here commemorate the souls of those who died without kin, many of whom lost their lives on the pilgrimage to sacred Mount Atago to the west of the temple. The area was named “Sai-no-kawara” (riverbed of souls) along “Sanzu-no-kawa” (the River Styx) that is said to separate the heavenly Pure Land and this world.
The area was used as a burial ground since ancient times
The 12th Century monk Honen built a small hall of Nenbutsu-ji in order to recite Buddhist prayers for the dead
The temple is accessible by train or bus.
Take a #72 bus on the Kiyotaki-Arashiyama line to Toriimoto Station. The temple is a five minute walk.
Trains also depart JR Kyoto Station for Torokko Arashiyama Station. From there it is a scenic 25 minute walk to Adashi-no-Nenbutsu Temple.
Kiyu-no-ma in the main temple building hosts exhibitions of flowers and other artworks celebrating the seasons. Outside, the temple grounds express the simple beauty of nature, from cherry blossoms in spring, fresh green bamboo in summer and vivid leaves in autumn, perhaps bringing comfort to the forgotten souls.
The Sento-Kuyo ceremony is held on August 23 and 24 every year. Candles are lit for those buried in Sai-no-kawara as there are no living relatives to tend the graves. Thousands of candles illuminate the numerous stone images, creating an otherworldly scene. Participants pay 1000 yen and receive a brochure and a candle.