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“The ultimate Moss Garden”
Review of Saihoji Temple

Saihoji Temple
Ranked #96 of 1,109 things to do in Kyoto
Certificate of Excellence
Rolling Hills Estates, California
Level Contributor
47 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 46 helpful votes
“The ultimate Moss Garden”
Reviewed April 6, 2014

The temple and its moss garden is slightly off the beaten path and far less impacted by tourists than many Kyoto 'sights'. It is necessary to make reservations for the visit and to 'pay' for the privilege with some form of meditative task before viewing the garden. This is well organized, efficient and certainly worth the effort.

Visited October 2013
Thank PVtalker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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182 reviews from our community

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English first
Level Contributor
79 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 57 helpful votes
“Wonderful cultural experience and moss gardens”
Reviewed March 29, 2014

This was a special place to visit. There are so many temples and shrines to see in kyoto. This one stands apart because the require you to participate in a short service chanting sutras and also doing some calligraphy,and writing your wishes on a stick with calligraphy pen. After you will visit the famous moss gardens which are beautiful. You need permission to visit and must go online and read how to do it. If you are staying at a more upscale hotel they may be able to assist you with this if you ask ahead of time. We took a taxi there, and were worried how we would get back as it is in the hills and not near main roads. There were taxis waiting a bit down the hill. If not, I'm sure one of the small shopkeepers would not mind calling one for you. Well worth the effort to get a reservation to see this place and participate in a Buddhist ritual. There is a cost also when you arrive..but it's worth the $30 fee

Visited March 2014
1 Thank hongo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Boston, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
83 reviews
42 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 191 helpful votes
“Exclusive, but a must-visit in Kyoto”
Reviewed February 14, 2014

Yes, it's the most difficult and expensive place in Kyoto to visit, but considering that you already spent quite a bit of energy and funds on a trip to Japan in the first place, don't miss out!

The application is via a postcard 7 days or more in advance (in high season, a month or 2 is better). Try to get an acquaintance in Japan, as we did, or a travel agent / hotel clerk, to help. The monks will return your postcard with the approved date and time (usually 1pm) of visit.
Getting there by public transport takes too long, so a taxi is recommended.

Upon arrival, you will be asked to present the return postcard and pay 3000 yen (approximately $30). You will then be shown to the temple's main hall, where a ceremony will be held for about 1/2 hour-45 minutes with all of the day's visitors, upwards of 50 people. Our ceremony was not very interactive and involved mostly listening to chants, but there can be other activities, such as tracing characters, etc.

Everyone will then be herded into the moss garden. It will be hard to avoid walking through the garden with the crowd, but I suggest hanging back near the entrance and letting most people pass to maximize both time and enjoyment.

There's another trick to having Saiho-ji almost all to yourself, though.
Most visitors, and especially those on a tour, make only one circuit through the lower and upper gardens. It's not forbidden, as far as I could tell, to go through the circuit more than once. The second time, mostly serious photographers stick around, and you will experience the moss garden in the peaceful, meditative way it was meant to be seen.

Visited December 2013
3 Thank vladb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
74 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 64 helpful votes
“If you like temples, you must go.”
Reviewed December 7, 2013

Yes, getting a reservation is somewhat difficult. We had a friend in Japan help, I'd bet that your hotel can assist you given enough notice.

We were not required to trace anything. I kind of wish we had, it would have been a memorable experience.

The best thing about this temple is that there is a limited number of people that go through, and unlike many other temples, you can actually find some peace and quiet at this one.

It's also very beautiful, and moss does cover almost everything.

Visited December 2013
Thank Andrew808
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
41 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
Reviewed November 9, 2013

Loved the trip to this Moss Temple, including one hour long exercise of tracing characters. You have to make reservation to visit this temple. I asked my hotel to make this reservation for me, and they were very kind to make it. Keep in mind, although, that a visit to this temple could break your entire day. They gave us a permission for 1 pm (I am not sure if they have some other times available), so we had to take a taxi to rush from one end of the City to another.

Visited November 2013
Thank Val S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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