#ohara #sanzenin # jikkoin #shorinin #hosenin #jakkoin

Ohara is a quiet village in northern Kyoto. It takes about one hour from Kyoto station by bus no. 17, Kyoto bus line. Ohara has still rural features, especially during the autumn harvest season. There are also some thatched roof houses, typical of Japanese countryside. In fall, it becomes very crowded for the beautiful and colourful foliage painting the landscapes around the village or the temples’ s gardens. The bus ride is nice and it runs through mountains in the last part of the trip. You can see also Mount Hiei, the preeminent mount of Kyoto, located in north-easter part of the city. Ohara is the last stop. The most famous temple in this area is Sanzen-in. The other temples too have their own peculiarity Maybe you cannot cover all of them, but it is possible to have a look from outside to get the image of how this part of Northern Kyoto looked like years and years ago and how it keeps those traits till today.

Main Gate of Sanzen-in


Sanzen-in Temple was founded in the early 800, by the monk Saicho(最澄), who introduced the Tendai Buddhism(天台宗) to Japan. Sanzen-in is known as a Monzeki Temple(門跡寺院), which means the head priest was a member of the Imperial family.
From the bus terminal cross at the traffic light and follow the lane up to the hill. Here restaurants, souvenir shops are aligned along a stream. Sanzen-in temple has a castle like stone wall entrance. Crossed the wooden gate, the temple has a calmer aspect than the first impact we have at the entrance gate.

Shuheki-en Garden

The first building, “Kyaku-den”、Guests Hall, was built in 1587 with building materials of the old Imperial Palace. It was the residence of the Abbot. It has various tatami rooms with painted sliding doors. The Guest Hall is facing a garden, named “Shuheki-en”, with round shaped azalea bushes and a pond. Everything is harmonic.

Yusei-en Garden(有清園)

The second building is “Shinden(宸殿)”, where “Yakushi Ruriko Nyorai” (薬師瑠璃光如来:the Nyoriai of Emerald Radiance) is the principal image of worship with other two Buddhist statues. The Shinden building faces to its famous garden, the green heart of the temple. “Yusei-en(有清園)”. This garden has a carpet of moss and the green is splendid. Cedar and maple trees, the pond, and stone statues in different sizes make the garden a place of astonishment. Everything is perfect.

The Rebirth in Paradise Hall

In the middle of the garden there is an elegant building, “Ojo-Gokuraku-in” (往生極楽院:Rebirth in Paradise Hall). This Hall was erected by the priest Eshin, in 986, and most recently in 1143. This is the oldest building in Sanzen-in. A big statue of Amida forms a trinity with Kannon and Seishi, divinities of Buddhist realm. Looking at these statues surrounded by the garden, a peaceful sensation pervades the visitors.
There are other more recent constructions, such as Kannon-do, Kannon Hall, and Koniiki-Fudo-do, in the upper part of he temple’s ground. It is pleasant to stroll around slowly, and enjoy this paradise.
On the right side of the main gate of Sanzen-in, other temples are located along the lane. Also there are the tombs of two Emperors, Go-Toba (1180-1239) and Juntoko (1180-1242), both of whom died in exile.

A cup of tea at Jikko-in


This little temple was rebuilt in 1921.Originally it dates back to 1013. I recommend this place for having a cup of “macha”, powdered green tea, with a sweet, in the tatami room facing the beautiful garden. You can stroll in the garden too.

Shorin-in Temple


At the end of the same path from Sanzen-in, there is Shorin-in. There is one big building, “Hondo”, Main Hall, in the ground. It has a simple aspect enriched with carved panel, and cypress bark roof. Inside the Hall there is a golden statue of Amida and other two Buddhist Holy beings. This temple is the birthplace of Tendai “Shomyo”, a Buddhist musical arts used during the rites.
On the left side facing the entrance of Shorin-in, the path lead you to Hosen-in.

Mount Fuji shaped pine tree at Hosen-in Temple


At the entrance where tickets are purchased, you can already see the beautiful pine tree old 700 years, known for its shape like Mount Fuji. The little gate is a perfect frame to enclose the yard with the pine tree to take a nice photo. Also here you can have a cup of tea with a sweet while staring at the garden of “Crane and turtle”. These two animals together are symbol of good luck and long life.
You can go down following the path and arrive at the same place where you started to go to Sanzen-in from the bus terminal. Behind the bus station, there is a stair and a river. Follow the river to the bridge, cross it, and cross the street. Go straight on, walking along the fields and farming houses. You will arrive at Jakko-in.

Stone stairs and trees as a special approach to jakko-in temple


This remote temple has a nice approach made of stone stairs with trees. Jakko-in is a Tendai Buddhist temple and the legend says Prince Shotoku built it in 594 for his dead father.
Jakko-in is the location of the sad story of the Empress Kenreimon-in(1155-1213), daughter of Taira no Kiyomori(平清盛), the chief of the Taira clan. At the end of Dan’noura battle, she was saved from drowning. She lost her child, her family, and also it was the end of their Taira clan. She spent the rest of her life as a nun in this temple, praying for her lost family. Her story is told in the novel “Heike Monogatari(平家物語)”. Unfortunately the main building was set fire on 2000 and rebuilt within five years. Jakko-in has a lovely precincts with a waterfall and a pond. Even the temple has a veil of sadness, it is has also a quiet and harmonic aspect, making it a world apart.

The Gate and Main Hall of Jakko-in

Ohara at fall

Walking back through the fields, I enjoy the rural ambience. Time flows slowly here, and seasons rules the people’s life. This countryside area has been the stage of many historical events, while the nature plays its part. I like to come to Ohara for one day excursion, because it so close to Kyoto and so distant somehow.