Ninna-ji, located in northwestern central Kyoto, is the head temple of the Omoro sect of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. It is considered a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)," along with sixteen other temples, Shinto shrines, and other sites.
The temple was built in the 9th century, being finally formally established and named "Ninna-ji" by Emperor Uda in 888. Emperor Uda then went on to reside on the temple grounds for roughly thirty years following his retirement.
Many of the buildings extant today at Ninna-ji date to the time of the third Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu (r. 1623-1651). The temple's kondô (main hall, lit. "golden hall"), today designated a National Treasure, was formerly a part of the Kyoto Imperial Palace compound; the bell tower, Mie-dô, Kannon-dô, sutra hall, five-story pagoda, and Niô-mon (gate) all date to the time of Tokugawa Iemitsu, and are all considered Important Cultural Properties.
- The main Niô-mon temple gate was constructed c. 1637-1644, in emulation of the "Japanese" (wayô) style of the Heian period.
- The main garan is protected by a Shinto shrine known as Kushô Myôjin. It consists of four sections: the shaden, honden (Main Hall), and sayuden (Left and Right Halls). Built c. 1641-1644, it enshrines nine Shinto deities, including those of Kamo, Hiyoshi, and Yawata.
- The temple's Kondô (Golden Hall) was originally constructed in the Keichô era (1596-1615) as part of the Kyoto Imperial Palace; it was relocated to the Ninna-ji compound sometime in the Kan'ei era (1624-1644), and is today a National Treasure, as a precious surviving example of shishinden (imperial palace) architecture. Sculptures of Amida and of the Four Heavenly Kings are among the chief objects of worship housed within the hall.
- The Mie-dô also dates to the Kan'ei period and has been designated an Important Cultural Property. It incorporates elements of the Seiryô-den from the Kyoto Imperial Palace from the Keichô era, and enshrines sculptures of Kôbô Daishi, Emperor Uda, and Prince Dainisei Shôshin. Elements of the design, including cypress bark roof shingles, are intended to resemble the temple where Kôbô Daishi once lived.
- A five-story pagoda also dates to 1644, and stands 36.18 meters tall. Like the famous pagoda at Tô-ji, it maintains roughly the same width across its entire height, rather than tapering towards the top.
- The temple's Shiro Shoin ("white study") was built in 1890 to serve as a temporary shinden ("palace") following the destruction of the goten ("palace") in a fire in 1887. A new shinden was built afterwards, and this structure was then renamed the Shiro Shoin. A series of fusuma (sliding screen) paintings decorating the walls of the shoin depicting pine trees are by Nihonga painter Fukunaga Seihan, and date to 1937.
- The new shinden was built in 1909-1914, and is considered a notable example of post-Meiji period wooden architecture. It is built in hinoki from the Kiso Imperial Forests, and is thatched with cedar shingles. It faces a pond garden to the north, and a dry garden to the south, and contains three rooms, the Jôdan, Chûdan, and Gedan. These are decorated with paintings by Hara Zaisen, including one set depicting cherry blossoms and the Aoi Matsuri on the reverse side; other paintings in the shinden include images of Emperor Uda, and of a mountain stream. One such wall painting hides a secret room, known as the musha-kakushi (warrior hiding), a traditional symbolic room which theoretically could have held hidden Imperial guards, but was not actually used.
- Plaques on-site.
- The term wayô (lit. "Japanese style") was coined in the Kamakura period to refer to the architectural styles introduced from China in the Nara period and which had now become rather traditional and nativized, in contrast to the more newly introduced, and thus more foreign-seeming Chinese styles of architecture (karayô) introduced alongside Zen. See: "Wayou," JAANUS.