Due to a famous 300-year-old sal tree on the grounds, it is colloquially known as the Sal Tree Temple (沙羅双樹の寺 sarasōju-no-tera). A festival is held every June to celebrate the sal tree and its flowers.
The temple was originally founded in 1531 in Kamigyō-ku as a family temple for the Hosokawa clan, and named Sanyū-in (三友院). In 1556, it passed to the Yamana clan, whose family temple it remains to this day, and was moved to its current location within Myōshin-ji and renamed to Tōrin-in.
The temple is not generally open to walk-up visitors, but is open year-round for shukubō (monastery lodging, reservations by return postcard) and shōjin-ryōri (devotional cuisine, 3 or more people). The current head priest, NISHIKAWA Genbō (西川玄房) is a noted researcher on devotional cuisine, frequently appearing on television and in magazine articles, and a class on devotional cuisine is held every Tuesday.
Further, the temple holds three annual events, which are open to the public (admission charged, reservations not required):
- Celebrate the New Year with Adzuki-bean Gruel (小豆粥で初春を祝う会 azuki-gayu de shoshun wo iwau kai) – second half of January, from January 15, celebrating koshōgatsu (小正月, Little New Year) (daytime, devotional cuisine meal)
- Admiration of sal tree flowers (沙羅の花を愛でる会 sara-no-hana wo mederu kai) – second half of June (daytime, with tea or with devotional cuisine meal)
- Festival of fondness of lantern light (梵燈のあかりに親しむ会 Bontō-no-akari ni shitashimu kai) – early/mid-October (10 days, from first or second Friday, 6–9 pm)
- 塔頭寺院案内 東林院 (sub-temple information: Tōrin-in) (Japanese)
- 東林院, JR (Japan Rail) information page on temple and sal tree festival (Japanese)
- 東林院・小豆粥で初春を祝う会 (Adzuki-bean gruel festival, Kyoto Tourism) (Japanese)
- 小豆粥で初春を祝う会 2012（東林院） (blog post) (Japanese)
- 東林院・沙羅の花を愛でる会 (Sal tree festival, Kyoto Tourism) (Japanese)
- 東林院・梵燈のあかりに親しむ会 (Lantern festival, Kyoto Tourism) (Japanese)