Hidden amongst the houses in Arashiyama, Hokyo-in Temple is set out of the way on the edge of Kyoto city. Walking around this area you’ll see more traditional neighborhoods and ways of living. Small farming areas, Ryokan, Japanese pubs and plenty of temples!
This small and private temple is south of Daikaku-ji, opposite Seiryo-ji and, not too far from the very famous Bamboo Groves. I feel due to this, a lot of tourists skip over Hokyo-in without realizing! Unless it’s autumn though, when the temple’s garden is filled with beautiful red leaves and the tourists flock here to get their perfect photo; the reason for a ban on using tripods and medium format or bigger cameras. This is a great idea to stop people standing in the way and making other’s visit not so nice and relaxing.
After paying the low ¥500 entrance fee, you’re pointed to a small wooden door that opens and takes you into the garden. The garden itself isn’t huge due to being a very small temple, but it’s filled with trees and plants making you unaware to whether the garden actually ends or not! Half way down the garden you’ll find the Temple building where you can enter and pray, or just kneel and look out to the garden. Coming here at the right time, I ended up kneeling in the buildings entrance for half an hour, peacefully looking out and taking in the gardens' beauty. I didn’t see another soul for this entire time!
Hokyo-in Temple was built way back in the eleventh century, during the Heian period by the order of Emperor Shirakawa. In ‘The Tale of Genii,’ it is described that Genji’s own temple was located south of Daikaku-ji Temple on the Saga Moor area. Hokyo-in’s location happens to once be known as the Saga Moor. Coincidence?
So, if you’re off to see the Bamboo groves in Arashiyama, be sure to explore further and make your way to Hokyo-in Temple. It’s easy to spend a long time wandering and sitting in the gardens, where you’ll find utter peace with the sound of nothing but wildlife and the leaves rustling in the wind.