Kennin-ji was founded in 1202 CE and claims to be the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.
The monk Eisai, credited with introducing Zen to Japan, served as Kennin-ji’s founding abbot and is buried on the temple grounds. For its first years the temple combined Zen, Tendai, and Shingonpractices, but it became a purely Zen institution under the eleventh abbot, Lanxi Daolong (蘭渓道隆Rankei Dōryū) (1213–1278).
The Zen master Dōgen, later founder of the Japanese Sōtō sect, trained at Kennin-ji. It is one of the Rinzai sect’s headquarter temples.