Daikaku-ji Temple

#daikakuji #shingon #osawanoike #sagano

Daikaku-ji Temple(大覚寺)

Daikaku-ji temple is not exactly the place you can find right behind the corner, when getting off the train at Arashiyama station. Tenryu-ji temple (天龍寺) and Daikaku-ji temple make a pair of the main temples in the area. But unlike Tenryu-ji temple, where people walk in long processions, Daikoku-ji temple is thanks to its remoteness from the “main area”, much calmer place - not to mention its panoramic beauty.

The composition of this originally Imperial villa of Emperor Saga (786-842) and its connection with Osawa Pond right next to it create one of the most beautiful natural sceneries in Kyoto. Emperor Saga was so devoted to Shingon Buddhist sect(真言宗) that his villa was quickly converted to the temple and remained as the head of Daikoku-ji sect of Shingon Buddhism to this day.

While walking through the long labyrinth of wooden corridors, the characteristic sound of so called "nightingale floors" will accompany you as far as the wooden floor goes, to the far end of terrace that remains above the pond. The dominant view of Osawa Pond(大沢池), one of the oldest garden ponds in Japan, is quite breath-taking itself. No wonder that Court nobles were holding moon-viewing parties in the garden and watched the rising moon from boats.

Waraten-jingu Shrine history goes as far as to the 9th century, playing chiefly the role as a guardian deity of easy childbirth and well-being of one´s family. That is why you can see many pregnant women visiting the place. They are either praying for the safe delivery or thanking for already born child.

As described in the Tale of Genji(源氏物語), the masterpiece of Japanese literature, the place is still breathing an ancient court atmosphere and is one of the best places to understand what the living at the imperial court was like. It also has a long tradition of ikebana (嵯峨御流:the Saga Goryu School) that has been inseparable part of temple´s history for centuries.

Roofed wooden alleys bending between separated buildings make them easy to access in any kind of weather. The pleasant view of gardens around offers many nice spots for taking pictures. You can slowly enjoy many architectonic details of Shinden-zukuri style, characteristic style of Heian period in Japan, and also Shoin-zukuri style that developed from it. You would sometimes almost forget that you are in the temple but the monks who are devotedly cleaning gardens every day are quite a nice reminder of where you are.

The other day, I went there and I was kind of lucky. At Mie-do Hall (Front hall of Shingyo-den) I was able to, let´s say, make direct connection with the sacred Hannya Shingyo sutra (the Heart sutra - "The Heart of the Perfection of Understanding") transcribed by Emperor Saga and enshrined at Chokufu-shingyo-den Hall behind the building. Usually you can only enter Mie-do Hall and pray from there or go directly in front of the place where the sutra is kept. It is right behind the Mie-do Hall. But this time there was some kind of sacred rope at Mie-do Hall coming from the sutra´s place and connected to the revolving sutra cabinet on the right side to be rotated (Maniguruma, 摩尼車) and hanging freely on the left side to be pulled (Gokosho, 五鈷杵). It seems that by doing so you can get a blessing. To be honest, I am not a very big believer but in cases like this it makes me feel somehow different. It is something that just naturally makes you to bow. And I must admit that it was quite a nice feeling when I sincerely made my pray after all.

I cannot wait to get back to there to see the cherry blossom trees in spring and beautifully colored maple leaves in the autumn.