Saiho-ji Temple

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Photo: Akuppa John Wigham / CC BY 2.0

Known as the “Moss Temple” or Kokedera Temple, Saiho-ji in Kyoto is home to one of Japan’s finest moss gardens. Built in 1339, the Zen temple was designed by monk Muso Soseki. However, it was the luxurious moss garden that made Saiho-ji rise to fame. Its beauty recognised by the UNESCO World Heritage Site committee, Saiho-ji’s garden contains over 120 different species of moss. 

Overview

Address

56 Matsuo-jingatani-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto City (Map) (Directions)

Hours

13:00 - 18:00 Closed

Opening Hours

Monday 13:00 - 18:00
Tuesday 13:00 - 18:00
Wednesday 13:00 - 18:00
Thursday 13:00 - 18:00
Friday 13:00 - 18:00
Saturday 13:00 - 18:00
Sunday 13:00 - 18:00
Holidays 13:00 - 18:00

Website

saihoji-kokedera.com

Highlights

Karesansui-style Garden

The upper floor of Saiho-ji’s famed garden is the Karesansui Style Garden. Unlike its lower floor, this garden is made entirely out of rocks. It was said that the creator, Muso Kokushi, meant for this to be his grave. However, he decided to let the garden live on as a symbol of Zen Spirituality. In 1339 when it was built, it was common to have ponds and water in Zen gardens. Yet Muso Kokushi chose to use rocks to portray this spirit, an innovative idea that served as inspiration to many others. The Karesansui-style garden in Saiho-ji is also regarded as Japan’s founder of rock gardens.

Classical style garden lower floor

The lower floor of the famed moss garden is a classical-style garden. Amongst the lush foliage and green moss carpets is the Ougonchi Pond. The heart-shaped pond lies at the center of the garden, producing stunning reflections in the water on a clear day. Also known as Shinji Ike, the term ‘heart’ is also known as the Chinese character 心, giving the pond a second identity as the “Heart Pond”. Both gardens are recognised as Historic Sites and Places of Scenic Beauty by the Japanese Government.

Shonantei Tea House

Built during the Toyotomi Period, the Shonantei Tea House is a historic building recognised by Kyoto as a National Treasure. The tea house was allegedly used as a hiding spot for Iwakura Tomomi during the Meiji Restoration. Now, Shonantei is also known for being a moon-watching spot in Northern Kyoto.

Guided tour

To visit Saiho-ji, one must make a reservation at least 1-2 months in advance. The guided tour includes an exclusive meditation and sutra chanting service, in addition to the comprehensive 90-minute tour of the gardens. It’s best to seek the advice of your hotel to help arrange a reservation as the process is mostly in Japanese.

General Amenities

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site

Access

5-minute walk from Kokedera Bus Stop
 

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