Senbon Shakado, Kyoto’s Okame Temple

The Onin War devastated Kyoto–burning much of the city to ashes. Even today there are still reminders of this war throughout the city—as long as you know where to look. In the Nishijin district (lit. meaning “west camp”) is a temple that survived not only Onin War but also several large fires. Since the Kamakura Period (14th century ) Daihoon-ji, or better known as Senbon Shakado [千本釈迦堂], has changed little and temple is one of the few remnants of ancient Kyoto.


Getting to Senbon Shakado

The closest bus stop to Senbon Shakado is the Senbon-Imadegawa bus stop, where Senbon Street and Imadegawa Street intersect. There are many bus routes that come to this bus stop: the #51, #59, #201, #203, #101, and the #102 all go to the Senbon-Imagegawa bus stop. From the bus stop, go up a block and turn left and you will be there in only 2-3 minutes.

Entrance of Senbon Shakado in Kyoto Japan

Entrance of Senbon Shakado

FYI, Senbon Shakado stands quite close from Kitano Tenmangu, Daitoku-ji and many other famous temples and shrines, so be sure to check out those other places too when you visit Senbon Shakado.


Temple Grounds

Upon entering the temple ground, you will see the hondo, which survived Onin War.

Hondo of Senbon Shakado, Daihoon-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan


There is a 600 yen entrance fee to enter the hondo.

Built in 1227 the hondo clearly exhibits characteristics of the oldest Japanese temple architect style, wayo. Temples build completely in the wayo style are very rare in Kyoto; making this building a national treasure. Senbon Shakado predates even other, famous temple in Kyoto, such as Sanjyusangen-do, and as far as I know this is the oldest hondo in Kyoto.

wayo architecture.

Sword mark left from the Onin War inside the hondo

As its name suggests, the hondo enshrines the Buddhist deity Shaka Sanso. The statue housed in the hondo also dates back to the same time period to when the temple was built. Unfortunately, the statue is not open for public viewing.

The Onin War: Japan’s Biggest War

Kyoo-do Ganjyojyu-ji of Senbon Shakado Daihoon0ji temple Kyoto Japan

Kyoo-do Ganjyojyu-ji: little temple to commemorate the death of Yamana Ujikiyo, who was killed by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

Treasure House

Right next to the hondo, there is the temple’s treasure house, where you can see many old Buddha statues, mostly from the Kamakura Period. There, you can still see some of the temple’s precious collection of statues, including one by the famous Keiha School.

treasure house of senbon shakado

Treasure House: If you pay to get in hondo, the entrance fee to the treasure house is included.


Okame’s Tale

It is impossible not to notice the giant statue of a woman on the temple grounds. In fact, her face is everywhere! Her name is Okame, and she is very familiar to most Japanese people.

Statue of Okamesan at Senbon Shakado

Statue of Okamesan

the face of Okame is also known as “Otafuku”

So, why is she here? According to temple legend, Okame was the wife of the head architect of the temple. One day, he made a mistake and cut a pillar too short. At a loss, he consulted his wife Okame, who told him he could fix the problem by using additional beams. Thanks to her advice, he finished the temple. However, Okame, worried that if people suspected that she helped build the temple, her husband’s name would come to ruin. In order to protect his reputation, she committed suicide before people anyone could realize what transpired.

Okamesan dolls/statues found inside the hondo of Senbon Shakado

Okamesan dolls/statues found inside the hondo


Senbon Shakado

AddressMizomaecho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture〒602-8319
Hours of OperationMon-Sun: 9:00-17:00

Admission Fee
Hondo/Treasure House

Adults: 600 yen
College/High School Students: 500 yen
Middle/Elementary School Students: 400 yen

Coming next time,

The adventure continues…

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