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Gyokuden-ji Temple in Odawara

A lush green Buddhist temple in a historic castle town

Near Hakone-Itabashi station in a leafy residential area about a kilometer south of Odawara Castle, there's a cluster of several venerable Buddhist temples, which all together make for a very pleasant afternoon's stroll around. One of them is Gyokuden-ji, which is distinguished from the others by the amount of greenery there is, which makes it very easy on the eyes and spirit.

The worship halls aren't so interesting, but it's the atmosphere and setting that make this an enjoyable place. The graveyard is surrounded by green, backing onto thick trees and a bamboo grove, screened off from the rest of the temple by plump, well-tended shrubs. And in every part of the grounds there's an abundance of trees and bushes, saplings and small plants sprouting everywhere. There's a beautiful, unfussy moss garden at the centre of it all, looking as if it's been left undisturbed for hundreds of years, while many of the paths and parts of the graveyard are also grown with moss.

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