Arashiyama Temples You Need to Know About – Part 1, March 2015

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Day 2 of our Japan trip and we made our way to Arashiyama again, this time to visit some of the lesser known temples in the area. We caught the JR train from Nijo Station to Saga Arashiyama station and made our first stop at Seiryoji Temple.

Seiryoji:

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We happened to go on the day of the Nehan-e ceremony, a torch lighting ritual which is held annually to commemorate the day of Buddha’s passing – and it’s the only day of the year that entry is free. They were already setting up for the bonfires in the temple grounds from the early morning.

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There was a group of chanting Buddhist monks overseeing the all the hard work.

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We didn’t fully explore the temple grounds as we had started out a little later than we’d hoped, but what we liked what we saw.

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We then headed North into almost rural-like territory, walking past small residential properties and fields. It was a huge contrast to the more commercial area around Togetsukyo Bridge, and we noticed that there wasn’t a single tourist in sight. We passed by what looked like a popular shop…

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…they were selling fresh tofu!

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Daikakuji:

About 20 mins walk from Seiryoji, Daikakuji is a little out of the way from the other temples, but is definitely worth a visit.

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Be prepared to remove your shoes when entering the building – I liked the sign.

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The corridors of Daikakuji are made of “nightingale” floorboards and are designed to squeak as you step on them.

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Another feature of the temple are the beautifully painted fusuma sliding doors.

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One of the rooms of the temple was just awesome. The ceiling was intricately painted and there was a dragon that extended across the ceiling at the back of the room.

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The grounds were well maintained and there was a large pond at the back of the temple as well.

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There was enough at Daikakuji to set it apart from other temples and we left quite satisfied with our visit. We then headed to the North Western end of Arashiyama towards the next temple.

We did almost 30 mins of walking through almost deserted streets before hitting the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street. It felt as though we had stepped back in time, walking amidst the traditional houses and restaurants. The streets were quite narrow, so when the occasional car passed by we had to stop and move to the side.

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There were many shops and restaurants along the street. We saw an interesting shop that sold silk cocoon products.

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Another fascinating shop that caught our eye was obviously someone’s private residence as well.

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We headed up the hill passing by another temple, Adashino Nenbutsuji, and kept right past a large red torii gate. We walked up towards what looked like a highway and almost immediately to our left was our destination.

Otagi Nenbutsuji:

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This temple is gaining more and more recognition amongst tourists and rightly so as it’s one of the more quirky and unique temples in Japan. The temple is small, but people come to gaze at the hundreds of rakan statues, each stone figure having its own expression and personality.

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This one was my favourite.

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It was already past 2pm by the time we made the trek back towards Central Arashiyama, and we were tired and hungry. Our saviour was a small café with the sign “Sagano” and appetising displays in the front window.

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The café interior was pretty and although there was no English menu and the lady didn’t speak a word of English, she was kind enough to attempt to explain the food displays to us. She recommended the matcha warabimochi, which was a green tea jelly-like Japanese sweet. It came with hot green tea to drink as well. It was quite lovely and refreshing.

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We also ordered the Choco Parfait, which was delicious and gave us the boost we needed to continue our journey.

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There were many souvenir shops along the way. We bought some fridge magnets and stopped to browse this pottery shop.

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In the next Japan in Spring post we’re off to our final temple in Arashiyama, and then return to Central Kyoto for dinner.

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