Sanjusangendo (Rengeoin Temple) 蓮華王院 三十三間堂
33 gaps, 120 meters, and 1,001 statues
The silence of the hall, even at the busiest times, combined with the smell of incense and the sense of distance make this a peaceful and eerily beautiful stop on your journey.
The official name of this temple is Rengeo-in, but it is much more well known by the name Sanjusangen-do
San-ju-san, or 33 in Japanese, refers to the 33 gaps between the supporting pillars of this very long, somewhat narrow hall
At 120 meters, it is the longest wooden structure in Japan
How to Get There
From Kyoto City, Rengeo-in is accessible by bus or by walking.
Take the bus from Kyoto Station to Hakubutsukan-Sanjusangendo-mae bus stop. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from Kyoto Station to Rengeo-in, and 5 minutes from Shichijo Station.
The thousand-handed goddess of mercy
Sanjusangen-do contains a staggering 1,000 statues of the thousand-handed goddess of mercy, Kannon. You may notice that the number of arms on these statues is a bit short of that number. The statues here have 42 arms each, but Buddhist numerology subtracts two human arms and multiplies by 25 planes of reality to reach 1,000.
The differences between Kannon statues
The Kannon statues in this hall are designed and carved from a similar form, but individual variations of the artists and the effects of weather and age have given each one a slightly different expression and character. There is a commonly held belief that if you look at the statues carefully, you will find one that looks like you.
The one thousand and first statue is the same deity, Kannon, in a massive seated position in the center of the hall. In addition, there are 28 guardian deities placed in front of the others.
The ammual archery tournaments
This spot is famous for its use in annual archery tournaments dating back about 400 years. They are held on the second Sunday after the New Year. On the return route from the main hall you can see photographs and historical remnants of this competition.
Please note that photography is not allowed in the hall, so be prepared to buy a postcard of the hall if you find your lucky statue!