Zenfolio | Grewals Photography | Saiho-ji
Also known as Koke-dera Temple, or the ‘Moss’ Temple because of its 120 varieties of mosses that create a magical carpet throughout the temple grounds.

The gardens of Saihō-ji are collectively considered to be both a historical landmark and a "special place of scenic beauty" in Japan.

Visitors are admitted only by prior application (by return postcard), and the fee to visit the temple (¥3,000) is the highest in Kyoto. You will be given access to the grounds for 90 minutes. As of May 2010 they prefer for the application to arrive up to 7 working days prior to the intended visit at the temple. Before being permitted access to the garden, visitors must engage in zazen and hand copy and/or chant the quite long sutras. It is OK not to finish tracing the whole sutra, but you will be asked to write down your wish and your name and address. The monks keep all the sutras in the pagoda and continue to pray for all. It is said that these regulations were put into place in order to protect the delicate moss from the hordes of tourists that plagued the temple prior to 1977.

This garden is designated as Japan's historic and scenic spot. The garden is made of two parts; one is in the Chisen Kaiyu (circling pond) style, having a pond in the shape of the Kanji "Kokoro (heart)" in the in the center consisting four islands, and the other garden is a kare-sansui garden. In the former garden, there are approximately 130 types of moss growing.

The contrast with the trees are fabulous, and the atmosphere is very natural, quite different from other gardens which are obvious that they were made by human. The kare-sansui garden is just as wonderful as the Chisen Kaiyu style garden. There are many large stones assembled together. This kare-sansui garden contains no water, however, it is said that if you sit on a stone and close your eyes, you will hear the sound of water, and if you open and strain your eyes, you will see water flowing before you. When people experience the mysterious feeling of shining water, and life, overflowing around them, they will be greatly moved. Then, when they come to themselves again, the mossy stones will be sitting there silently, as if they had been there from a long time ago.

This moment in which people feel as one with the garden, is familiar to noh. Noh is a world of the subtle and profound, which starts from denying everything, but acting "the something" which we cannot deny, as the truth. This garden also denies everything: by taking out all the artificial elements to make it natural, but encounters the truth which we cannot deny: encounters the beauty one feels when all is natural. Muso Soseki, who made this garden, was a great man who even received the title as "The Most Reverend Priest" from the Imperial Court. He, who is also a garden maker, took in the idea of Zen, and rose the quality of gardens to the spiritual level. Japanese gardens have some gorgeous elements, but there also are elements, completely reverse to gorgeousness. These unparalleled Japanese gardens were spread by the Zen priest, Muso Soseki. In the gardens he made, is the spirit of satori.