Tenryu-ji Temple(天龍寺)

#tenryuji #zen #arashiyama

Temple of the Heaven Dragon

I arrived at Saga Arashiyama station in the morning, around 8 o'clock. It's winter but the sky was clear so the sun heated the city. I didn't have breakfast nor coffee in the morning. I went downstairs to exit the station and decided to go to the first convenience store that I could find. But I couldn't see any at first sight. I had to walk a few meters along the main street to find one. It was when I realized the difference between Sagano or Arashiyama area and the central parts of Kyoto. You cannot easily find a convenience store in the traditional Arashiyama area where everything it's meant to keep the old spirit.

After I finished my coffee, I continue to walk along the main street and after around 5 minutes, I arrived at the main entrance of the biggest temple in Arashiyama, the Tenryu-ji. I found two entrances. The left one for vehicles had a big sign that showed the name of the temple and the symbol of World Cultural Heritage. The right entrance had a typical temple entrance for pedestrian.

I already knew that the Teryu-ji Temple buildings were not the originals from the 14th century. During its history, the temple has been ravaged by more than 8 fires, especially during the Onin war that desolated Kyoto. However the landscape garden made by Muso Soseki(夢窓疎石) in the temple complex survived and now it is one of the oldest in all Japan.
Once I got to the entrance of the temple, I had three choices to go first. I decided to skip the Dharma Hall where you can find a paint of the Heaven Dragon on the ceiling because I have already visited it before.

I headed for the Main Hall, paid an entrance fee. As it is normal in Japanese temples, I had to take off my shoes. Walking through the temples halls barefoot in summer, was one of the most pleasant experiences I had ever done. I recommend everyone to do this at least once. I enjoyed walking all around the temple's halls, on tamami mats and all the corridors while I was enjoying the views of the Zen garden and the mountains in the background.
This temple was originally an imperial villa used by the Emperor Go-Saga and later by his son the Emperor Kameyama. After that Ashikaga Takauji decided in 1339 to change the villa into a temple in memory of Emperor Go-Daigo after the civil war finished.
After I finished all the halls, I went to the Zen garden. I recommend this garden to the botanical garden lovers. All the trees and bushes have a small sign that indicates you the Japanes and English name. Also you can use this garden for meditation or as resting place, especially in the morning when there is almost nobody. After designing the garden, Muso Soseki became the head priest of the temple complex and after his death his descendants continued his legacy.
As a curious activity, you can try your luck at the frog pound close to the Tahoden building. It is like a game. Consist of throwing one coin and trying to place it on the top of the frog's head, It's really hard! After watching the entire garden I went to the north exit that leads you to the Bamboo Grove.

Before finishing your visit, you can get one of the amulets and bring them back to your country to wish you luck at work, at university or just for good luck.

Photo & Report: Javier Azana