Due to its high concentration of historical and traditional places, Kyoto is the go-to town for tourists on the search for that cultural fix while in Japan.

For those who have a particular interest in Buddhism and Buddhist art, the temple 'Sanjusangendo' is already a must visit. But the most refreshing and surprising part is that in a town full of tourists snapping away, no one is taking even one single photo of the beautiful sight within the main hall.

Sanjusangendo Temple Grounds, Source: (C) Grape Japan

1001 Individually Carved Buddhist Statues

This temple’s main hall is home to 1001 statues of the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kannon. One gigantic seated statue is placed in the centre of the hall with 500 human-sized standing statues flanking either side. Each statue was carved from Japanese cypress and every single one has an individual appearance. Placed row after row, they give the impression of being never ending.

The standing statues are designated as Important Cultural Properties and the large, seated Kannon is a National Treasure. The statues were made in the 12th and 13th century during the Kamakura period.

There are also twenty-eight images of guardian deities and pious Buddhists lined up at intervals in front of the Kannon statues. Two statues of the Thunder God and the Wind God stand on cloud pedestals at either side of the hall and are considered representative of the masterpiece sculptures of the Kamakura period.

Instagrammers Not Welcome! Well, in the Temple Main Hall Anyway...

Photography and mobile phone use are prohibited inside the main hall, out of reverence for the goddess and also so that the peaceful images can be contemplated in a calm and quiet manner. More than other temples in the area, Sanjusangendo has an other worldly sacred atmosphere, and is the perfect place for people who are sick of the overenthusiastic selfie-takers at every tourist spot.

Sanjusangendo Temple Grounds, Source: (C) Grape Japan

In the grounds, where photography is permitted, you can see the temple’s impressive exterior and garden. There is a yearly archery contest held here on the Sunday closest to January 15th. It is said to date back to the middle of the twelfth century, when a master archer should have been able to hit a target stationed at one end of the temple, while standing at the other end 120 metres away. The contest includes advanced level archers, but it is also a coming of age celebration, with new 20-year-olds taking part. They wear their coming of age kimonos, creating a wonderful traditional scene that tourists can witness too.

A Temple So Close to Kyoto Station

An added bonus is that it is only a 20 minute walk from Kyoto station (public transport is also available). From there you can walk another 20 minutes and reach the beautiful, traditional area of Gion which is home to Yasaka shrine and Kenninji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.

Sanjusangendo Temple Main Hall Exterior, Source: (C) Grape Japan

Kyoto is of course, filled to the brim with temples and shrines, some more well known than others. But the spectacular sight of so many beautiful statues in one place and the calming atmosphere really makes Sanjusangendo worth a visit. Its prohibition on photographs is the perfect antidote to the Instagram culture which is so ingrained in travel these days. If you want to truly appreciate the sight of the statues, you'll just have to go see them for yourself.

Sanjusangendo Website

Address: 605-0941 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Sanjusangendo Mawaricho 6 5 7

By - Jess.