After having been reduced to ashes by wars and fire Izumo-dera, which was located north of the Imperial Palace at the time, moved to Yamashina valley in eastern Kyoto in the early 8th century. Over time the temple grounds were expanded with buildings and gates originating from Kyoto’s Imperial Palace amongst others. Being located along one of the major roads leading out of Kyoto the temple flourished and members of the Imperial Family even served as its head priest allowing it to become a “monzeki” temple.
The temple’s current name, Bishamondo, is derived from the enshrined of a statue of Bishamon, one of the seven gods of good fortune in Japanese lore. According to the lore, he is serves as a warrior god and punisher of those who do evil. He is often portrayed in full armor wielding a spear and holding a small pagoda symbolizing the divine treasure he protects, while his virtue of luck is to help people win any kind of competition.
Some of our readers might recognize this story as the seven gods of good fortune have been featured in the book “Digital Fortress” by Dan Brown and of course in some Japanese anime, such as Shirobako in which the protagonists make their own animated story based on the story to one day make a full-length anime.
Bishamondo sees a peak of visitors during the autumn season when the trees leading up to and within the temple grounds turn into the most beautiful autumn colors. As the leaves slowly fall down upon the pavements or float in the small ponds and basins, the temple is engulfed in the countless shades of green, orange and red. The Edo period temple garden set around a small pond with a stone bridge, a so-called “bridge to paradise”, is a scene of true tranquility is especially a treat for your eyes. The small Shinto shrine in the background with its orange painted beams and turquoise roof tiles enhance the autumn colors even further. The second garden has a larger pond with a small mausoleum and stone pagoda nestled within the plant life. During spring the temple’s over 150 years old weeping cherry trees bloom in fullness, offering another splendid seasonal scenery Kyoto has to offer.
Access, opening hours and admission fee
Bishamondo is about a 20 minute walk away from the nearest stations, being from Yamashina Station on the JR Line or Tozai subway line and Keihan-Yamashina Station on the Keihan Line. The temple is open year-round between 8:30 and 17:00. The temple grounds themselves are admission-free while the main temple building can be accessed for a minor admission fee of 500 yen upon entry.
For those who are in Kyoto during New Year’s Eve, you can head out to Bishamondo and ring the temple’s bell from 23:45 to call in good luck for the upcoming year.