January 23, 2015
By Eri Aoki and Shoko Osawa
There are many famous temples in Kyoto, but Jikishi-an and Adashino-nenbutsu are not among them. These two small but significant temples are both located in Kita Saga, an area to the west of Arashiyama.
Jikishi-an is surrounded by beautiful bamboo forests. Upon entering, you will see a building that looks more like an old Japanese house at the end of a long, narrow path than a temple. In January, you can see the Japanese flower ‘roubai’. This yellow flower is so lovely and you can see it bloom only during the months of January and February. In Jikishi-an, there are a lot of trees, so in autumn you can see many red leaves.
Jikishi-an has a long history. It was founded by Dokushou Seien in 1646 and its name, Jikishi-an, originated with the phrase “jikishi-denshin,” which means to “pass on tradition.” Today, Jikishi-an is known as a temple of the Jodo sect.
Jikishi-an is mostly well-known, however, for ‘omoide-gusa,’ a kind of notebook in which visitors record their own impressions and messages. This notebook was started in about 1965 and the number of entries now exceed 5000. During a special period in autumn, the notebook is opened to the public.
Entrance to the temple for adults is 500 yen; students are 400 yen.
Adashino-nenbutsu-ji temple is near Arashiyama Station and belongs to the Jodo sect. The temple has a special graveyard. It is famous for being an area where people abandoned the bodies of the dead to let them decompose by exposing them to the elements. This was a customary way of getting rid of corpses during the Heian period.
It is said the temple was established by Kukai in 811 in this place where the ashes of the dead had been beaten into the earth. Afterward Honen founded an Amida Buddha training hall here. The principal image is of Amitabha Tathagata. The main hall of temple was rebuilt in 1712.
There are about 8000 carved stone Buddhas or gravestones on the precincts of the temple. These stone images had been scattered around Adashino but were collected and place here together in 1903. There is also an image of Jizo, the guardian deity for spirits of miscarried children, at the temple. A special prayer service Is held for the spirits of children here on the 24th of every month. In addition, the temple hosts the Sento-kuya, a service for the dead that takes place every August 23rd-24th. In this ceremony, 1,000 candles are lit to honor ancestral spirits. In the fall a bonfire is made to show gratitude for the harvest and delicious food from the land and sea are offered.
The temple is open every day from 9:00-16:30. Entrance fee is 500 yen for adults and 400 yen for junior high school and high school students; children are free. Visitors can see a lot of cherry blossoms in spring and colored leaves in the autumn.