In 1339 the Buddhist monk Muso Soseki accepted an opportunity to restore a dilapidated temple into a deeply religious one surrounded by a zen garden. Using rocks, sand, and 120 types of moss, he designed a tranquil garden that resembles a lush, green carpet where pilgrims and visitors can meditate and contemplate life. The temple and its spectacular garden, designated a special place of scenic beauty in Japan, is one of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A visit to Saiho-ji Temple is a uniquely Buddhist experience. Every visitor is asked to chant and write Buddhist scriptures – or sutra. A monk leads the chanting, and non-Japanese speakers and writers are offered a sheet on which to trace the characters. After, a stroll through the moss and rock gardens complete the experience.
Saiho-ji Temple is more commonly known as “Kokedera,” which translates to “Moss Temple.”
From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Shijo Station and transfer to a Hankyo Kyoto Line train to Katsura Station. Switch here to the Hankyu Arashiyama Line, which will take approximately five minutes to Matsuo Station. The train takes 30 minutes and costs 430 yen ($5USD). Alternatively, Kyoto bus number 73 runs once or twice an hour from Kyoto Station via Arashiyama to Kokedera and takes about 1 hour. A reservation by mail is required to visit Saihoji Temple; Japanese writing skills are necessary. The cost of admission is a 3,000 yen ($30USD) offering.