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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saihoji Temple - Kokedera

Pond at Kokedera Temple西芳寺ー苔寺
Kyoto's Saihoji Temple was originally the summer home of Prince Shotoku, and dates to at least the founding of Kyoto some 1200 years ago.
It is the most expensive of all of Kyoto's many temples and shrines. It is rather hard to get to. You need to make reservations in advance. If you are late, you will be denied entry. Once there, you will be made to kneel and trace the sutras on a low table for about 30 minutes (the Chinese characters are written out for you; all you need to do is trace them, and trace them, and keep on tracing them).
And it is worth the trip, and expense, and mild discomfort. It is formally known as Saihoji Temple, but everyone calls it "Kokedera" (moss temple).
Over the centuries, the temple fell into disrepair. In 1339 Muso Soseki, a legendary landscape gardener, was hired to fix the place up. He designed the pond and garden, the former in the shape of the Chinese character for soul or heart: 心 (kokoro). Though he did not design the moss; that came in later, again due to neglect.
In ensuing centuries, Kokedera was burned to the ground during the Onin War, and twice ruined by floods in the Edo Period. It has since been rebuilt.
A day trip could be to go first to nearby Matsuo Taisha, and then Kokedera.

Moss at Kokedera Temple, KyotoDetails

Address: 56 Jingatani-cho, Matsuo, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto City
Telephone: 075-391-3631
Access: From Shijo Kawaramachi and Sanjo Keihan Station take bus #63 to the Koke-dera stop - the last one. Alternatively take bus #28 from Kyoto Station to Matsuo-taisha-mae and walk about 15 minutes south west. The journey will take about 35-45 minutes and presently costs 240 yen (2009). Bus #29 goes from Matsuo-taisha-mae to Shijo Kawaramachi as well.
Applying to visit Saihoji: The application process is somewhat complicated, and must be completed in plenty of time before your visit (at the very least, one month). See making a reservation at Saihoji Temple for details.
Fee charged by Saihoji: 3,000 yen/person

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