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2009
10.14

saiho-ji

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with over 120 different species of moss, saiho-ji (西芳寺) is also known koke-dera (苔寺), or moss temple.  founded in the 8th century while nara was the capital of japan.  the garden was originally built to honor amitabha, the principal buddha in a branch of buddhism practiced in east asia.

aside from the wide variety of moss found in the garden, there are three tea houses as well as the golden pond, ogon-chi (黄金池), which is laid out in the shape of the chinese character for heart (心).  saiho-ji is designated a place of special scenic beauty and a historical landmark.

to visit saiho-ji you must first book a reservation through the mail.  send a self-addressed, pre-paid postcard along with your own postcard stating your name, when you wish to visit (multiple dates are preferred), and number of guests.  if you want to be more specific, you can select the morning or afternoon session, but that could lower your chances.  i strongly recommend that you send in your postcard so that it arrives at least 2 weeks before your desired dates, but no more than 2 months prior.  the address is:

saiho-ji
56 kamigaya-cho
matsuo, nishikyo-ku,
kyoto city 615-8286
JAPAN

i know it might seem like a lot of work, but this is done purposely in order to reduce the number of guests per year and preserve the garden for future generations.  additionally, the fee is 3,000 yen, much higher than other places.  try to arrive 20 to 30 minutes before your appointed time.

you will first take part in copying of the sutra, shakyo (写経).  this is done in part as a form of meditation.  you don’t have to complete the entire sheet, but thankfully it has all the characters lightly printed so that you can trace over them with your brush.  you will then write your name, address, and a wish you want to come true.  the priest will later pray in hopes of making your wish come true.  after that you will have about 1.5 hours to walk around the garden.  do take your time and enjoy it!

the easiest way to reach saiho-ji is to take the city bus #29 to koke-dera (苔寺) and walk west from the bus stop.  you can also take the kyoto bus system and get on buses 63, 73, or 83.  the later two go to the JR kyoto train station.  also walk west from this bus stop.

next to the main hall where you did some copying of the sutras, there is this funky gray colored moss growing.  very strange.  it almost looked snowed over or covered in morning due.

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as you begin your walk through the garden after doing some sutra copying, you will want to head over to the main area with the ponds.  head down this path.  you can already see a lot of moss growing.

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of course, there is some bamboo as well.

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i meant to walk down this side path, but i was too busy thinking about photography that i completely forgot.  :)

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this guy seemed a little lonely, but at least he is surrounded by a carpet of friendly moss.

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this is the first pond that you will see.

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another view of the same pond.

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a close-up view of the moss growing around most of the trees.

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three bridges.  there were several, but you can only look at them, can’t actually walk over them.

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i think this fish wanted to show off for the cameras.  it was always following us around and then did a special show. (see later in the article)

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one of the tea houses, and the largest.

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not the original intention, but the moss is overrunning the place.  :)

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the sun was playing peek a boo all day long.  now it’s dark.

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nice fall colors.

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i wonder what that structure is?

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the view out one of the windows in the smallest tea house.

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i wonder if anybody actually uses this boat?

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see what i mean, that fish liked showing off.

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another view of the main pond.

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i think this moss growing on the roots of the trees looked the best.

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the main building where you copy the sutras.

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additional photographs:

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  1. […] at HND which are also booked well in advance. do not despair i say to myself. i will be back. http://matiasstella.com/japan/saiho-ji although i keep forgetting to following the booking instructions for this each time. […]