Yomeiji Temple 養命寺

Shimane's oldest Zen temple

Walk up a quiet lane and through a simple gate, and you come to the imposing but sedate grounds and buildings of Yomeiji Temple, one of the two greatest Soto Zen temples in Japan.

The impressive main gate, striking bell tower, and thatched main hall set against the mountainside all hint at how the temple must have looked centuries ago, when hundreds of novice monks studied and worked there. The main hall looks more like a large farmhouse than a temple hall, a style quite rare in Japan now.

Don't Miss

  • The large wooden fish struck to call monks to meals and lectures
  • Numerous paintings on the sliding doors
  • The delightful Zen garden

How to Get There

Yomeiji Temple is an easy 10-minute walk from Tsuwano Station. Turn right outside the station and head up the road, then take the first right across the railway tracks. The temple is straight ahead.

Growth and decline

Founded in 1421, Yomeiji Temple was patronized by the lords of Tsuwano Castle . Many generations of them are buried here, as is famed novelist Mori Ogai.

The fortunes of the temple began to fade when the last lord broke with tradition and instigated an unconventional Shinto-style burial that was imposed on all the residents of Tsuwano for a short time.

Subtle details and hidden highlights

Explore the maze of darkened corridors, whose floors have been worn smooth over the centuries, and discover the many painted screens and sliding doors. Eventually, you find the well-manicured Zen garden with its koi pond and small bridges.

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