This small temple in the foothills of Higashiyama dates back to the 12th century, when the priest Honen began to preach a novel means of salvation accessible to anyone, the recitation of the name of Amida Buddha (nenbutsu). Two of Honen's disciples, Anraku and Juren, preached this new and then-heretical faith in the countryside outside the usual surveillance. Two ladies in the Imperial Court, Matsumushi and Suzumushi, who were also said to be concubines of Emperor
Go-Toba (1180–1239), inspired by the teachings, became nuns. Convinced that the monks had seduced the two ladies, the Emperor had the monks seized and beheaded. The court ladies then took their own lives. Then Honen was himself exiled as a heretic. When he was finally permitted to return to Kyoto in 1212, the elderly priest had Anraku-ji built to honor his faithful disciples and their two converts. The tombs of all four are on the temple grounds. Café Momiji, on the premises, is open most days. The nearby Gallery Hana-iro sponsors exhibitions of contemporary art.