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When I first visited Manpuku-ji, I had wondered how on earth this place had ended up in Uji out of all places. A sitting, chubby, smiling Buddha? Round doors and windows? Geometric details reminiscent of what I would consider “Chinese”?
As the head temple of the Ōbaku branch (黄檗宗), Manpuku-ji represents the third major school of Zen Buddhism. Unlike the Rinzai and Sōtō branches, which have come to Japan during the Song Dynasty (960–1279), Ōbaku Buddhism arrived to Japan during the Ming Period (1368–1644). In other words, whereas classic “Japanese” Zen represents architectural influence from an earlier period, Manpuku-ji exemplifies shifts in architecture and religion that had happened on the Chinese mainland. Thus, while a visit to Manpuku-ji may feel like a trip to China, it is noteworthy to consider that this merely presents a newer aesthetic.
Manpuku-ji is a rather large temple complex. Due to its distinctive style, I enjoy discovering architectural and iconographic particularities when visiting the temple. Containing some karesansui-style gardens and lots of pine trees, there is not much seasonality to be found in Manpuku-ji. Yet, summer, when the Lotus flowers are blooming, might be the best time to visit the temple.

Admission: open year-round

Shinnyodo 2017.jpg

An unusual Buddha for Japanese Buddhism.

Temple Grounds 伽藍
Buddhist Sculptures 仏像
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