Visiting Saiho-ji Temple is a unique experience which affords one the opportunity to view a garden of rare beauty in a temple which preserves a serene and dignified atmosphere. Saiho-ji Temple is also known as "Koke-dera Temple," which means "Moss Temple," and the temple's luxuriant mossy growth is its claim to fame. Over 120 types of moss are present in the two-tiered garden, resembling a beautiful green carpet with many subtle shades.
The lower tier centers on a pond that is shaped like the Japanese character for "heart." Trees create pools of shade which play over the moss. In autumn, the maple leaves turn bright red making a vivid contrast. The upper tier is a rock garden with stone formations that resemble islands in a green sea.
Built on the site of an ancient temple, Saiho-ji Temple was restored and made into a Zen temple in 1339 by the monk Muso Soseki, who is also said to have designed the upper tier of the garden.
In an effort to protect the moss from being trampled by too many visitors, the temple has adopted a restricted admission policy. Aspiring visitors must write to the temple in advance to request a reservation. Ask your hotel for advice on applying for admission. On arrival, visitors are treated to a meditation and sutra-chanting service, and then given a 90-minute tour of the garden. If you are fortunate to acquire a reservation, your visit to Koke-dera Temple will no doubt leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.