Jingo-ji Temple

April 12, 2008

by Tomomi Nakashima

Where would you like to go to get a feeling for the “real” Japan? I would have to recommend you visit some temples and shrines to experience traditional architecture with a sense of space and open simplicity. A great part of Japanese culture is the enjoyment, and understanding, of the simplest of things both man-made and natural. One place where you can discover each is Jingo-ji Temple.

Jingo-ji Temple is located in Takao in the northwest of Kyoto City and is set back quite deeply on a mountainside. The temple was erected by Wakeno Kiyomaro who lived from the end of the Nara era to the beginning of the Heian era and was a person heavily involved in the formation of Heiankyo. He welcomed both Saicho, who was a priest and founding father of the Tendai Sect, and Kukai (Kobo Daishi), a priest and founding father of the Shingon Sect to the temple and invited them to make it their base of training. These actions effectively established Jingo-ji as the birthplace of buddhism in the Heian era.

The best way to get to Jingo-ji is to take a No. 8 Kyoto City bus from the downtown bus stop at Shijo-Karasuma, and the journey takes about 50 minutes. It is a little further out than other famous places for sightseeing and is surrounded by deep nature, but it is this natural location that makes it special for the changes in nature by season. For example, abundant cherry blossoms bloom in the spring, cicadas sing out loudly on summer mornings, with frogs croaking in chorus in the evening, and a blanket of white snow covers the whole area in winter. However, the temple is especially famous for the magnificent sight of maple leaves turning red in the fall. There is a very scenic path which leads to the temple and it really is beautifully serene and relaxing to stroll here. Jingo-ji Temple is also famous for “Kawarake-nage” which can be used as a charm (ma-yoke) to protect you from misfortune. “Kawarake-nage” is the action of throwing a small clay plate which resembles a biscuit down into the Kinun valley which can be seen from the garden of the Chizo-in section of the temple grounds. The view is wonderful and it is very difficult to describe its true beauty in words, so you really must go and see it with your own eyes!

I spoke to a visiting tourist from Hiroshima, and this is what she had to say:
“I was recommended by a friend to come here and now I know why, as this is a place really worth visiting. It is totally refreshing and the valley itself is particularly wonderful. The photos of the valley are not nearly as beautiful as seeing it with your own eyes!”If you want to enjoy Japanese culture in the heart of nature, you should go to Jingo-ji Temple. You can, of course, go there by yourself, but it is far more enjoyable to go with someone with whom you can share the experience. Please enjoy a truly relaxing time here!

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