The green garden Sanzen-in.
The Buddhist temple Sanzen-in is at the foot of Mount Hiei, near Kyoto.
Credit: Chi King
The door of the temple grounds Sanzen-in near Kyoto.
Credit: Original Nomad
A green temple
The village of Ohara seems lost amid the rice fields and mountains. Vegetation surrounds this farming village that actually conceals one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Kyoto: the Sanzen-in.
Nestled at the foot of Mount Hiei, this Buddhist temple attracts many visitors curious to discover the seasons in a new light in this beautiful setting. After climbing the street lined with shops of all kinds, selling souvenirs and local products, an imposing wooden door marks the entrance of Sanzen-in: a picture of serenity and contemplation awaits you.
It was in 804 that the founder of the esoteric Tendai sect, Saicho (767-822), created the main temple of Ohara. With some 1 200 years of existence, nature has had time to settle into the premises, where two gardens are a delight to see. Once you have removed your shoes, there is no question of entering the building otherwise, the beauty of the old rooms opens to you. Works of art and architectural wonders follow on from each other through the different rooms until they open onto the inner garden. Along the wooden walkways bordering the building, you can sit down and take a moment to admire the unparalleled art. Metonymical objects of nature, moss, trees and statues enhance the senses. Once your shoes are back on, it is the outdoor garden that welcomes your steps. A delicate, emerald green moss carpets the ground, from which the occasional statue of Jizo, the protector of children, spring up.
Through the seasons
While the snow creates silent landscapes of breathtaking virginity, autumn and its golden lights are equally beautiful. After visiting the temple it is especially pleasant to walk in the woods, under red leaves. But the site is also known for its spring cherry blossoms. The vegetation puts on a whole new charm under the warm showers of the rainy season.
In the Ojo Gokuraku-in Chapel lie the effigies of the Buddha Amida and his two acolytes, the Bodhisattva Kannon and Seishi, the deities revered at Sanzen-in. A paradise of nature whose gods watch over it.