The Buddhist master Hounen is one of the most famous Japanese philosophers in history, perhaps surpassed by only his own disciple, Shinran, who was a much more vindictive and exclusionary person anyway. Though he received his religious education from the Tendai monks of Hieizan, Hounen eventually broke away to form the Joudo-shuu or Pure Land school. Unlike its counterparts, the Joudo-shuu holds that the only thing necessary for salvation is recitation of the nenbutsu - basically invoking the name of Amida Buddha over and over again. This was quite a controversial theory at the time, as it implicitly denied the value of the multitudinous practices of other sects. Basically, unlike Shinran, who believed that the only road to enlightenment and shaking off this mortal coil was putting all of one's faith in Buddha, meaning the entire matter was out of mortal hands, Hounen insisted that you had to cut your own path, and locate the Buddha yourself.
Hounen lived a fairly eventful life for a monk, enduring the assassination of his father and experiencing periodic exile. Eventually he founded 知恩院 Chion-in (whose characters are a highly poetic way of saying that it is a place to achieve knowledge), where he propagated his beliefs, and died years later, penning a single page of advice on his deathbed. Hounen is, so far, my favourite Japanese philosopher, and Chion-in is, so far, my favourite temple.
Not pictured: A display on the "Seven Mysterious Things of Chion-in." My favourite is a forgotten umbrella, whose origin is unknown, and which is now regarded as being in some way holy (various different ways depending on the tradition being followed.)
That wraps up the big landmarks of northern Gion, so in the next installment, we'll be venturing a little further afield.