The Kyoto Jusan Butsu (13 Buddhas) Pilgrimage

The Kyoto Jusan Butsu Pilgrimage covers 13 temples dedicated to the 13 deities of Shingon Buddhism in Kyoto. Each temple enshrines, or once enshrined, an image of a different deity.

Kyoto Jusan Butsu pilgrimage: Chishakuin

Chishakuin Temple, the first stop on the Kyoto Jusan Butsu pilgrimage.

The 13 buddhas and bodhisattvas are Fudo Myo-o, Shaka Nyorai, Monju Bosatsu, Fugen Bosatsu, Jizo Bosatsu, Miroku Bosatsu, Yakushi Nyorai, Kannon Bosatsu, Seishi Bosatsu, Amida Nyorai, Ashuku Nyorai, Dainichi Nyorai and Kokuzo Bosatsu. For those who intend to do the pilgrimage, here is a list of temples.


By tradition, pilgrims visit the temples in order from 1 to 13. All but one are located in the Kyoto metropolitan area. Kyoto's Tourist Information Office can help with train and bus schedules, and how to reach the temples.

The pilgrims's book (nokyocho) is actually a kind of ring binder. A plain one is available at Chishakuin, but a nicer one with a picture of the 13 buddhas on the cover can be bought at Toji Temple.


Shaka flanked by Amida and Miroku in the Butsuden of Sennyuji Temple.

The basic procedure at each temple is that you exchange a blank page from your nokyocho for one pre-inscribed and stamped at the nokyo (pilgrim's office), which will cost 300 yen. Only the date will be entered while you wait. Then find the hall with the correct buddha image, toss some money into the donation box, ring the bell (actually a kind of gong that you strike with a vertical rope) three times and say a prayer. You may also light three incense sticks or three candles, the number representing the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Not all of the temples have an image on display.

Pilgrim book

Pages from the Kyoto Jusan Butsu pilgrim's book.

Many of the pilgrimage temples charge an entrance fee of 300-600 yen, which contributes towards the upkeep of the temple, its gardens and its ancient sculptures.