Torn and tattered, torn and tattered,
Torn and tattered is this life.
Food? I collect it from the roadside.
The shrubs and bushes have long overrun my hut.
Often the moon and I sit together all night,
And more than once I lost myself among the wildflowers, forgetting to return home.
No wonder I finally left the community life:
How could such a crazy monk live in a temple?

Chion-in Temple is headquarters of the Jodo (Pure Land) sect if Buddhism. Founded in 1175 by the monk Honen, this faith teaches that salvation is possible merely by repeating the name of Amida Buddha.

Chion-in was also a monzeki (monzeki were Japanese Buddhist priests of aristocratic or imperial lineage. The term was also applied to the temples in which they lived) and its immense grounds contain twenty-one sub-temples and many National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties.

Honen’s tomb is located at the highest point on the grounds, looking out over his followers.

The largest building in the complex is the Miedo, or Founder’s Hall. Built by 1639 by the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, it is a National Treasure. Legend says that to protect the newly-completed building against fire, carpenters put a lacquered-paper umbrella under the eaves as a prayer for rain to put out any possible flames. You can still see it today.

One night a year, on New Year’s Eve, the temple bell is rung 108 times by resident monks, an event ushering in the new year. Cast in 1636, at seventy tons, it is the largest bell in Japan.

The Main Gate, or Sammon, is the largest wooden structure of its kind in the world and a National Treasure.