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Why Gio-ji Temple is special ?
Gio-ji Temple is more of a hermitage than a temple. In ancient times Ryochin, a disciple of the famed priest Honen, set up the temple Oujyo-in (往生院). At first it prospered, but it became obsolete during the Meiji Restoration (1868). During that time, Daikaku-ji Temple preserved the former temple's remaining Buddhist statuary and pagoda as it intended to reconstruct a new temple at the ruins of the Daikaku-ji Temple gate. The former governor of Kyoto, KitagakiKunimichi, heard about the story to rebuild the temple, so in response he donated a villa to assist the efforts in 1895. That villa is the building you can find today at Gio-ji Temple. This is the origin of the temple and reason why it has become a Shingon sect sub-temple of Daikaku-ji Temple.
What to explore at Gio-ji Temple?
Gio-ji Temple is a quiet temple surrounded by trees and a luxuriant moss garden. The trees grow quite densely, and the temple is often covered in deep shade. Inside the temple, however, is a statue of DainichiNyorai, the Buddha of Light. Other statues are connected to the temple's place in Japanese history and literature.
The temple was named after Gio, a dancer from long ago who fell in love with the Heike Clan's powerful leader Taira-no-Kiyomori. When he ended their relationship, Gio retreated to this temple to spend the rest of her life as a Buddhist priestess, along with her sister, mother, and another of Kiyomori's spurned lovers. Wooden statues of the women and Kiyomori are enshrined in the main hall.
The temple grounds are especially beautiful in autumn, when the leaves change colors and stand in sharp contrast to the green moss.
How to get to Gio-ji Temple?
49 minutes from Kyoto station to Saga-Shakado-Mae on Kyoto City Bus No. 28 or Kyoto Bus No. 71 and 15 minutes on foot. Both buses are bound for Daikaku-ji.
10 minutes' walk from Nison-in temple.
- A little garden of wonder
- The garden is gorgeous
- Unique garden in Kyoto
- Hidden Treasure in Crowded Arashiyama
- Lush, green and relaxing
Japan 〒616-8435 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨鳥居本小坂町３２
Tips for you
A big round window called Yoshinomado in the anteroom is wonderful. The shadow reflecting on the window looks like rainbow color. You can walk on the path surrounded by bamboos and maple leaves and visited this tranquil temple. You should visit the building at the back of the gardens - there is a dedication to a big white temple cat who used to roam the gardens. You can design and make your silk scarf in this place.Things to do
This nun temple has a sad story. During the Heian period a beautiful female entertainer, Gio who sang and dance elegantly (its profession was called Shirabyoshi at that time, now Geiko or Maiko) had a deep affection of Taira no Kiyomori, powerful warrior and ruler of the country, and lived peacefully along with her mother and young sister in his house. However, one day a young Shirabyoshi named "Hotokenogozen" visited Kiyomori's house. He tried to drive her away because he stayed with his sweet heart, Gio. Gio felt sorry for her and asked him to see her performance. He unwillingly accepted her offer. But as soon as he saw her singing and dancing, he fell in love with her. Eventually Gio and her family had to leave his residence. They opened a nun temple in the back of Sagano where there were sparse and deserted. They shaved their hair to enter the Buddhist world and said goodbye to the greedy world. Later Hotokenogozen, who bereaved the Gio of Kiyomori and became his lover visited her suddenly. Gio welcomed her, and they spent rest of their lives chanting sutra all the time. I was deeply impressed by this real story. Gio was generous to forgive and host her rival. Probably she was loved not only by men but also by women. I admire such a woman like her. I walked on the path surrounded by bamboos and maple leaves and visited this tranquil temple. The moss garden is also tasteful. It seemed to tell the history of sad legend. Wooden images of four women with Kiyomori (I don't know why his image was reposed. He is just an appendix) were reposed on the Buddhist room. I suppose all of the four women would live peacefully and friendly on the Buddhist paradise. Tips: A big round window called Yoshinomado in the anteroom is wonderful!! The shadow reflecting on the window looks like rainbow color. I was absorbed in watching seven colors at the window, which has another name of "the window of the rainbow". I almost forgot time in front of the marvelous window.
Come feel the beauty of this moss garden in rainy season like June and July! From Sanjo(三条) station, approx. JPY3,500 by taxi. 20 mins north from popular Bamboo forest by foot.
We went to Arashiyama in the rain, so maybe this moss garden was the perfect compliment to the weather. Expectations can affect how people experience an attraction. To help set the expectation, this is a very small garden (especially when coming from Okochi Sanso Villa), but the variety of moss and the quiet of the garden were well worth the visit. It was very different than any other garden we saw. We went in April when the moss was very green. Signage in English is scarce near the temple - be sure to have a little map.