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“worth the time and money” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Saihoji Temple

Saihoji Temple
Ranked #87 of 1,010 things to do in Kyoto
Certificate of Excellence
Beltsville, Maryland
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“worth the time and money”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 24 June 2014

Getting there, we took the 73 bus from Kyoto station (230 yen); it left the station around 11:45 and we arrived at the Kokedera bus stop at 12:55 with five minutes to spare before our 1:00 visit. So if you are taking the bus from Kyoto, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to make the trip.

Visited June 2014
2 Thank zandermill
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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179 reviews from our community

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English first
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Level Contributor
28 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
“Excellent experience; a couple of alternative suggestions too”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 June 2014

I very much enjoyed my visit here, and comments below from previous visitors were very helpful. This is my opportunity to add more. First, if you are a decent walker, it’s easy to get here by public transportation. Take the Hankyu line to the Kamikatsura station. If you get the 12:30 train from Katsura to Kamikatsura, you arrive at 12:32, which is plenty of time to walk to the temple. Nevertheless the streets can be confusing, so I used Google Maps (a godsend) on my phone to navigate my way there.

Once you are at the temple, the reception is very cordial but there is very little English. You pay your money and they give you some materials and send you over to the temple where there are rows and rows of small writing desks that you kneel at. If you are orthopedially challenged like me (there’s no possibility that I can kneel at a desk like that), and/or tall (I’m well over 6 feet tall and don’t quite fit in the small spaces at these desks), sit next to a door and hang your legs off the platform, or sit next to an aisle and spread your legs sideways. They don’t mind at all. You are asked to copy a sutra. They give you a calligraphy brush and ink and other materials, and (godsend number 2) a paper on which all the characters are printed very lightly. All you have to do is trace over them. This was sort of fun, getting to try my hand at calligraphy, but it would have been more meaningful if I had the slightest idea what the text was about. (I’m holding onto it, to show my son, who knows Japanese, and maybe he can tell me.) But the experience of the temple and garden would have been much deeper if I had understood the meaning at the time. Some of the commetns below suggest that you need to stay an hour or so, doing the copying. You certainly can if you want. But one of the attendants had his eye out for those of us who were struggling (me, with my sitting, for example) and told us just to write our names on the paper and then head out to the garden; this was only 15-20 minutes after I started.

Some of the comments below mention “hanging back” from the crowd, to get better views and a quieter experience. As one of those who ‘finished’ my copying early, I had no problem with views and great photographs, starting right off at the beginning. I also took the advice of one of the comments below and went around a second (and even a third) time – there was no one telling people to leave as long as I was there (2+ hours). One reason for going around the second time was that the sun came out after the first round; and moss gardens are SO much more beautiful visually when they are dappled with sun and shadows.

There are extraordinary sights to see here, but if you don’t want to pay the $30 admission fee, or go to the hassle of the whole double-postcard process to get permission (my hotel did it for me – I emailed the concierge in advance of my stay, and she got the permission with no problem, although the Temple decides which day you will visit, no guarantees that you will get your request), I’d say that you can obtain equivalent or possibly better experiences at other locations. Two suggestions: for fabulous, wonderful, garden design, go to the Okochi-sanso Villa Garden. (This is the private villa and garden of a Japanese silent-era film star). It’s more recent (20th century) than lots of the ancient gardens, but with its variety of views, its size, and its high quality of maintenance, but it’s a must to experience. It’s a bit pricey (1000 yen instead of the usual 400-600), but green tea and a sweet are included, and they are really excellent. Second, a short and beautiful walk from Okochi-sanso, is Gio-ji Temple. The moss garden is small, but the mosses there were the most luxuriant that I saw in all of Kyoto, and the overall design is really capivating. I don’t know if mosses have dormant seasons, or if mosses just turn brown when it’s hot and dry, or if a lot of historic gardens simply have a lot of dead moss, but I saw a lot of brown, where there should have been green, in many of the historic gardens. Not so at Gio-ji: healthy and lush.

Visited June 2014
8 Thank FlamingoJohn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
61 reviews
29 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
“Memorable Experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 May 2014

On of my best experiences in Kyoto. Due to efforts in trying to preserve the moss, the entrance fee to the garden is the most expensive in Kyoto at 3000 Yen, and you need to do a reservation process before, which I did through http://www.saihoji-kokedera-reservation.com, with no issues.

There were more people than I expected however it was still very tranquil and special. You need to write the sutras. A tip is to bring your own medium ink marker with you, as the Japanese calligraphy pen and ink and quite difficult to use if you are not used to it.

Let the majority go through the garden first and hang back so you can have it peacefully to yourself. It seems they only make the reservations for 1pm, so you will need to manage your day accordingly

Visited April 2014
1 Thank SuperMax1971
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Salt Lake City, Utah
Level Contributor
98 reviews
52 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
“The Moss garden of course”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 4 May 2014

Also called Kokodera, you HAVE to take part in a religious ceremony copying calligraphy in order to be allowed entrance, but it's to offer your own prayer toward the betterment of the world, family, people, etc, and then after the ceremony, you get to wander the most beautiful moss garden imaginable. Eerie, ethereal and lovely and plush. I couldn't resist. Here and there I had to push down with a finger on to the plush surface. Amazing.

Visited April 2014
1 Thank Michael K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
71 reviews
43 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 April 2014

In order to visit this temple you need to write at least 7 days before hand and apply for permission. Granting of permission is on the condition that you undertake an activity which is usually Buddhist sutra writing, this was a very peaceful calming experience and although many struggled with sitting on the floor to trace the writing and write your own prayer, it is well worth it.
Then into the temple gardens, over 120 types of moss...not being a gardener, didn't think I would get the wow, but it for sure was wow.
I felt very calm by the time I left nearly 3 hours later.

Visited April 2014
1 Thank letskeepexploring
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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