Giyou-ji (祇王寺) is located in the north-west district of Arashiyama in Kyoto. The origin of this temple is not very clear, but it seems to have been started by a disciple of Honen, a major priest in the history of Japan. The temple grew in importance but was later ravaged, probably during the Onin wars. The current Giyo-ji is all that survived and became a nunnery. In recent years the temple was left unattended and fell in disrepair until nun Chishoni moved in and tended the grounds. Chishoni was well know in Kyoto as she had been a geisha before being a nun, a striking similarity with the nun Giyo who lived here and gave her name to the temple hundreds of years before. Chishoni died in 1994, so this temple actually has some recent events in its history.
Giyo-ji temple is rather a small hermitage now, and although close from other famous temples such as Tenryuji (天龍時) or Daikakuji (大覚寺), its small size protected it from the hordes of tourists. In summer I suspect that mosquitoes play an important part in this process too. The main feature of Giyo-ji is the moss garden, best viewed in late spring when the new green colours cover the grounds. A small stream crosses the garden, and allows different kinds of moss to grow, probably according to the water content of the soil. The garden is surrounded by a narrow path, something not that common but very nice for the photographer (usually zen gardens can only be viewed from one or two sides). On the north end, the path passes along a bamboo forest, which is nicely integrated in composition of the garden (but in late summer and autumn, watch for jorogumo spiders in the air!). If you look for details, you will find a stone basin (of course), a small metallic lantern lying on the moss and a few other classic temple features. The old main building has a thatched roof. Giyo-ji is one of the best moss gardens in Kyoto, even when compared to the much more famous Koke-dera.
Immediately after leaving Giyo-ji by its old wooden gate, turn right and climb a small path to reach Takiguchi temple (滝口寺), and even smaller pavilion (but much less interesting too).
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Nearby: Takiguchi-dera 滝口寺 (60m), Nison-in 二尊院 (250m), Enri-an 厭離庵 (360m), Adashino Nenbutsu-ji 化野念仏寺 (420m), Jōjakkō-ji 常寂光寺 (460m), Rakushisha 落柿舎 (480m), Furoan フロアン (560m), Hōkyō-in 宝筺院 (590m), Seiryō-ji 清涼寺 (670m), Shōkaku-ji 正覚寺 (750m),...
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Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 嵐山, arashiyama, Giyo-ji, 祇王寺, 高松山, temple, 寺院, 仏閣