Visit Ohara Town, northern Kyoto. Explore Sanzenin Temple; practice chanting or sutra copying at Raigoin Temple; savor green tea at the illuminated garden of Hosenin Temple. Enjoy blossoming cherry trees later than central Kyoto in cool mountain air.
Ohara is a pleasant rural town in the mountains of northern Kyoto, about one hour from Kyoto Station, surrounded by bountiful nature. While somewhat remote, Ohara is blessed with several culturally significant temples associated with the Tendai sect of Buddhism. This guided tour takes you to Ohara in the late afternoon. Here, you will visit three of Ohara's most impressive temples to engage in spiritual activities, drink green tea, and enjoy an illuminated Japanese garden. First, you will visit Sanzenin Temple, the largest and most significant temple in Ohara, and explore its extensive grounds and gardens. Sanzenin is said to be one of the finest temples in Kyoto. Enter the green sanctuary of this temple nestled sublimely in a natural setting to explore tree-lined paths before making your way to Ojo-Gokurakuin Hall. Inside you'll find a figure of Amida—the Buddha of the Western Paradise. On your next stop, you will practice Buddhist chanting and copy sutras at Raigoin Temple, known as the origin place of Buddhist chanting in Japan. Located deep within the forest, Raigoin provides a particularly tranquil atmosphere. Founded in the mid-ninth century, the main hall and bell tower date back to the Muromachi period (1333 – 1573) with a stone pagoda that was built in the Kamakura period (1192 – 1333). Raigoin is devoted to the hard of hearing in Ohara. Finally, you will visit Hosenin Temple. Here, you will be served green tea which you can sip while contemplating the illumination of the splendid Japanese garden from the main hall. At Hosenin Temple, you'll find a splendid Japanese garden with trimmed shrubs, flowering trees, and moss-covered rocks, as well as a bamboo grove. Be sure to take in the highlight of the garden, a 700-year-old pine tree with branches held aloft by wooden supports. Hosenin Temple was built by the Shorinin Temple head priest during the Heian period (794 –1185) as lodging for pilgrims. In stark contrast to the serene garden, Hosenin Temple features once blood-stained ceiling and floorboards that were originally part of Fushimi Castle—the site of a mass suicide of defeated soldiers. These ceiling and floorboards were relocated to temples to memorialize the dead.