Kyoto temples & gardens ( Part 1)

Posted on February 14, 2013 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

Okochi Sanso Villa

Okochi Sanso Villa


Ever since my parents brought me to Japan at the age of seven, I became fascinated by this country, its culture and the people. Over the years, I continued to visit this country and I became even more intrigued. When I was younger, I was more interested in the aesthetic and design aspects of the Japanese culture, but in recent years, I developed an interest in Zen Buddhism and the philosophical aspect such as wabi sabi. I also wanted to understand more about rock gardens, so Kyoto seems to be the perfect starting point for a beginner like me.


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Books on wabi sabi, Japanese aesthetics and gardens in Kyoto


During my short stay in Kyoto, I visited about 14 different temples and gardens ( I skipped some famous ones as I have previously visited them before). Since each one has its own characteristics, each touched me on different emotional levels. Some famous temples, like Ryoanji ( or Kiyomizu-dera Temple) was so touristy and packed that I could hardly enjoy what was on offer. Hence, the ones that I really enjoyed were the lesser-known or less touristy ones.

Here are some of my personal favourites:

Okochi Sanso Villa (Arashiyama)

For some unknown reasons, I felt profoundly peaceful and blissful at this villa/ garden. There was only one other visitor when I was visiting, and I spent most of the time wandering on my own in this beautiful villa and garden built by the famous silent actor, Denjiro Okochi. The view here is stunning, but it is also tranquil and calm... I even spent some time meditating alone in the Myohkohan, where the actor's wife lived after his death. All I could feel was palpable peace here and I did not want to leave at all. The site also has a semi-outdoor museum exhibiting photos and memorabilia of the actor. The entrance fee also includes green tea and a Japanese confectionery in their tea house.


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Okochi Sanso Villa 


Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple (Arashiyama)

This small temple up on the top of the hill in Arashiyama is a bit out of the way, so I had to take a bus ( a wrong one... but I eventually got there thanks to a kind bus driver). Like many temples in Kyoto ( or Japan even), it was rebuilt many times and eventually moved to the current location in 1922. The attraction here is not the temple itself but the 1200 carved Rakan figures made between 1981 to 1991. Each figure is different and many of them are quite humourous. Although these figures are relatively new, they merge so well with the surroundings that they don't seem out of place at all. A fun and unusual site that is worth the track.


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Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple


Taizo-in  ( within the Myoshin-ji complex)

This small temple near where I was staying has two famous landscape gardens designed by the Zen master and painter, Kano Motonobu and Nakane Kinsaku. I was slightly overwhelmed by the ineffable emotions that I experienced here. I could not explain it, but I was close to tears here for no particular reason. Perhaps the hospitable gardener could sense this from afar, so he waved me over and showed me the 'secret magic' in his garden despite our language barrier. It was a very touching moment, and I left the garden smiling and filled with gratitude.


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Jojakkoji (Arashiyama)

This secluded temple does not look very spectacular from the entrance, but it has an amazing view of Kyoto and is also a well-known site for autumn foliage. The temple has a Taho-to pagoda, an important cultural property built in 1620, and the atmosphere is particularly subdued here.





To be continued...


This post was posted in Travel, Nature, Buddhism & meditation, Anything Japanese, Kyoto, Gardens & parks, Read & write, Japan and was tagged with books, Buddhism, Kyoto, gardens, temples, Japan