Shobo-ji was established in 754 by a monk called Chii. Chii was a disciple of Ganjin, who built the Toshidai-ji temple in Nara. Like many temples in Kyoto, Shobo-ji was burned during the Onin war, and later reconstructed in 1615.
The temple has a couple of interesting zen gardens, especially the one in front of the study. It is called the "Beasts and birds garden", after the shape of some of its rocks. The temple grounds are slightly elevated compared to the rest of the valley, which gives a clear view of the surrounding area. This prompted the creators of the garden to use the "borrowed landscape" technique to "add" elements such as the distant mountains to the garden design. Unfortunately the study is bordered on one side by an artificial water retention reservoir, which is not the best neighbour for a zen temple.
Shobo-ji's current personnel is paying particular attention to flowers; ikebana can be seen here and there on the temple grounds and in the buildings. The tsukubai water basin is usually decorated with flowers.
The temple is not very convenient to reach, being a bit isolated in the Oharano (大原野) valley. Such is, however, the fate of most temples in this wide area. From Shobo-ji, a little walk or drive will lead you to Yoshimine-dera (善峯寺), the bamboo road (竹の径), Jurin-ji (十輪寺) and Sanko-ji (三鈷寺), or even Komyo-ji (光明寺) further south.
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Nearby: Oharano Jinja 大原野神社 (300m), Shōji-ji / Hana-dera 勝持寺・花寺 (550m)
External links: Website, ウィキペディア, Wikipedia, Kyoto Navi, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, Marutake, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 西京, Nishikyo, Shobo-ji, 正法寺, temple, 寺院, 仏閣