Temples & Shrines: Saihoji
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Saihoji (Kokedera) Temple 西芳寺
Saihoji Temple - or, as it is more commonly known: Kokedera (苔寺; "moss temple") - was founded in the fourteenth century and is located on a spacious 4.5 acres in Matsuo, south west Kyoto, south west of Matsuno-o Shrine.
On the same site a temple has existed since the eighth century, when a temple was created by Gyoki. It was then rebuilt in 1339 by Muso Kokushi (1275-1351), who was a Zen priest and garden designer.
The classic stroll garden is designed to give the impression that the pond has a geographical connection with the hills in the background.
There is a pond, a kare-sansui garden, and several large structures. But it is of course the moss that tourists come for.
There are hundreds of species. The fall is a special time to visit, but the moss is at its greenest in early summer in May or June.
A reservation is required. Write the temple with your name, address in Japan, occupation, age (you must be at least 18), number of people in your group, and the date you wish to visit, plus an alternate date. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope: Saiho-ji Temple, 56 Kamigaya-cho, Matsuo, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto. Do not do this several days ahead of time and expect to get in. Do not show up late for your appointed time.
You must apply by return postcard. The fee is 3,000 yen, which is the highest in Kyoto. Prior to entering, you will be asked to take part in two hours of zazen or the chanting of sutras.
Moss Temple Access - how to get to Saihoji
Tel: 075 391 3631
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.
To Saihoji by bicycle from Arashiyama.
A carpet of moss at Kokedera (Saihoji Temple) in western Kyoto
Moss at Kokedera in western Kyoto