Heirinji in Niiza City, right by Kiyose in Tokyo, is one of thee most special places for autumn leaf viewing in Saitama Prefecture. More than being just beautiful, the temple has a rich and fascinating history. I have waited a long time to share information about the temple, so I am just going to share it as a “Photo Friday” (i.e fewer words than normal) to get it out in real time as the leaves are in their prime now. However, the great thing about Heirinji is that there are hundreds of maple trees, so even when the leaves fall in one area, you will still be able to see leaves in other areas. So the season should last for at least another week, maybe even two or three!
In brief; Heirinji is a temple in Niiza that was moved from Iwatsuki in Saitama City more than 350 years ago. The temple was initially founded in 1375. The temple stands in 43 hectares of lush woods that are a national natural monument of Japan. In addition, within the woods there are several places of note including the resting place of Matsudaira Nobutsuna (former Lord of Kawagoe) and his wife. Their graves are designated historic landscapes of Saitama Prefecture. Furthermore, the thatch roof temple gate, the middle and mountain gates and the sanctum of Buddha are tangible cultural properties of Saitama Prefecture.
In recent years you can not move around as freely as you once could. There is one whole section of the wood closed to the public currently. And several of the buildings are off limits too. But there is still plenty to see as there is still a walking route through part of the woods that is at least two kilometers long. You would need at least 90 minutes at this location if you want to take it all in and take some photos too. On my last visit (today, November 25th 2022) I was there for two hours and I intentionally skipped a bit as I had to get back home!
Please note that there are quite a lot of rules at this temple. For example, pets and art easels aren’t allowed. There are benches here and there, but they are just for sitting. Eating and / or drinking is also forbidden and you can’t feed the carp. You need to bring any rubbish home with you. In addition, please be aware that you have to pay into the grounds of the temple. (See information section) The grounds are stroller and wheelchair accessible and they have multi-purpose – and regular – toilets in two different locations as well.
Lastly and most importantly: Heirinji, as they clearly state on their website, is not a tourist attraction. It is an active zen training temple. Therefore you need to remain quiet and respectful while on the grounds of the temple. Moreover, loitering for the purpose of taking photos or videos is strictly prohibited. You also can’t use tripods, photo props or selfie sticks. Basically, you can take photos so long as you do it promptly, don’t enter any of the restricted areas and don’t get in anyone’s way to do so. To be perfectly honest and upfront though, I will not be surprised if this temple moves to a “no photography” rule in the near future. Please do check the official website, linked below access details, for the temple’s most recent rules and information.
Venue: Heirinji 平林寺 (Heirin-ji / Heirin Temple / Heirinji Temple) . It is on Google Maps as Heirinji Shrine. There is actually a shrine on the grounds too.
Address: 3 Chome-1-1 Nobitome, Niiza, Saitama 352-0011. View on Google Maps.
Hours: 9 am to 3.30 pm
Cost: 500 yen per person
There is a parking lot across the road from the entrance to the temple grounds. It costs 500 yen, flat rate, for parking. There are parking attendants who will direct you to where you should park. Its beside a nice little old style udon restaurant-shop, that sells ice-cream (among other things). They have an outdoor seating area with benches under red parasols.
By public transport the nearest station is Niiza station on the JR Musashino Line. Its about 30 minutes on foot from the station. However, the temple is relatively near Niiza City Hall / Office, so you could get any bus going to the City Hall and walk the rest of the way. The entrance to the temple is about a ten minute walk from city hall.