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“Temple of calm and peacefulness”
Review of Saihoji Temple

Saihoji Temple
Ranked #88 of 1,367 things to do in Kyoto
Certificate of Excellence
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Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Reviewed 16 March 2017

While not easy to get access to, this temple is the one I would keep if I had to chose one from my trip in Kyoto.
I used an online service to ask for an invitation (and used the ryokan I was staying at as the recipient address since it has to be in Japan).
The temple is quite far from everything. It requires a subway ride of 30 minutes or so from Kyoto main station, and you can add a 20 min walk to get to the temple.
Monks are checking your invitations and then the visit begins.
First, a caligraphy session. There is a mass for the group of 40 people you're in, and then you have to copy a prayer with a "feather" and ink, and you have to do a wish at the end of it.
Warning, if you're not used to sitting on your knees with your bottom touching your heels, it becomes hard to find a comfortable position. They had seats for aged/handicaped people though. The session lasted 40 minutes for me, but I was slow and took time to copy all of the characters, but you're not obliged to.

After that, you can walk freely in the temple park. The feeling you get by walking there is amazing. Panels, well integrated with the setting, tells you more about the temple. Everyone is naturally silent to respect the harmony that reigns in this place. Beautiful nature, pictures I took of it don't do it justice. The different shades of green mixed with the trees and the pond feels a bit like a magical place.

The hassle to get to there is well worth the visit, and even the rain I had couldn't spoil it. Really one of the highlight of my trip to Japan.

3  Thank Nisildur
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviews (226)
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"moss garden"
in 31 reviews
"heart sutra"
in 3 reviews
"concierge service"
in 2 reviews
"entry process"
in 2 reviews
"effort involved"
in 2 reviews
"hotel mume"
in 2 reviews
"prayer service"
in 2 reviews
"post card"
in 3 reviews
"minute bus ride"
in 2 reviews
"entry fee"
in 4 reviews
"yen per person"
in 3 reviews
"soba noodles"
in 2 reviews
"well worth the effort"
in 2 reviews
"main hall"
in 2 reviews
"copying"
in 14 reviews
"chanting"
in 19 reviews
"permission"
in 11 reviews
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18 - 22 of 226 reviews

Reviewed 29 December 2016

It takes preparation to get into this temple (also known as Kokedera), you need to apply well in advance to get an entry permit that is for a specified time and date (see Lonely Planet Kyoto or internet sites like Inside Kyoto for details). This is a tedious procedure but it ensures that the temple garden is not crowded. Once you are in the temple you have to copy a sutra before you are allowed to enter the garden; don't worry about that, it is less complicated than it sounds, you have a preprinted page showing the Chinese characters in light grey, you just follow the lines that are preprinted with your pen. If you have difficulties doing this in a kneeling position you can take a chair outside the temple hall. And you don't have to finish the copy completely, you can stop after 20 to 30 minutes.
The moss garden was worth all these efforts, absolutely stunning! We had the luck to be there at the peak of the autumn foliage, but is probably also a great sight to see at other times of the year.

3  Thank Klaus B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 November 2016

It took planing and paperwork 6months in advance to apply and get our entrance tickets. It is worth every effort to get there. Copying out the heart sutra while the monks chant is very moving. The moss gardens are so green and timeless. A form of walking meditation to explore them. Because of the limited numbers there are no crowds making it a special contemplative experience.

Thank CynthiaCanberra
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 November 2016

This a special meditative place to visit with an opportunity to copy a Sutra, which is a meditative practice in and of itself even if you dont understand it (one which so appealed that we repeated in Koyasan).

We were fortunate, and I'd like to pass on the good fortune to you. We had not heard of this as a possibility until a week before we left and were ready to despair of the missed opportunity and then I found, online "GoodsfromJapan.com" which offers a concierge service and reached out to them. Their first try didn't work with the times we gave, but we asked them to try again broadening the options and we got our tickets. They were terrific to deal with and we turned to them for help with other problems as well. They can be reached at desk@goodfromjapan.com and I heartily recommend them.

As we arrived at Saihoji Temple before the gates were open we continued walking along the road and came upon a Bamboo forest, the likes of which I had fantasized at Arashiyama. Here you could walk in the forest, by yourself, eat your picnic lunch and be surrounded by the quiet graceful majesty of the Bamboo.

By all means, go to the Temple and leave enough time to walk the road and enjoy the forest.

By the way, one of the buses (the one which doesnt go to Arashiyama first and I cant remember the number) leaves you off in front of the Blue Onion Cafe. Totally delightful place to have a tea and one of the best pieces of pear tart I've ever had....with a buttery crust.

2  Thank ThrutheSky
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 23 October 2016 via mobile

Really impressive. You need an invitation, but somebody got us one.

Then when you arrive, you take a calligraphy test. Not kidding. You sit down with brush and ink and copy a massive page of characters. Took our Japanese friends 30 min. Would have taken me a lifetime. Fortunately, I'm sloppy. Worlds dumbest exercise. After 45 minutes of truly pointless ink work, I turned mine in, bowed to the temple, and hit the trail.

The moss garden is remarkable. A hundred shades of green. A lovely walk. Interesting history. And a LOT of moss.

Worth a visit. Tip: bring a ball point pen and you can finish the calligraphy in 10 min.

2  Thank MTMusings
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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