While Kyoto has become famous for its world renowned temples such as Kinkakuji and Kiyomizu Dera, the city is home to hundreds of other beautiful neighborhood temples and shrines, most of which carry significant heritage and history. Taizo-in is one such temple, beautiful and serene but often overlooked.
Taizo-in resides within Myoshin-ji, a large temple complex with many sub-temples within its vicinity. The temple is recommended in the Michelin Green guide Japan, and I had the opportunity to visit during my trip with a guided tour.
We were first taken to the Hojo (main hall), which is designated as an important cultural property. Here, we were asked a riddle that had been preserved through a painting; a national treasure and one of the oldest ink paintings in Japan. The painting details answers from various philosophers, all of which seemed illogical. See if you can come up with an answer!
How can you capture a very slippery, large catfish in a gourd?
We were then showed the elegant Montonbu no niwa, or dry landscape garden, where the monk explained that zen gardens usually incorporate evergreen plants that convey the same beauty and peaceful experience no matter what time of year you look at it.
We then continued on to Inyou no Niwa, or the Ying and yang gardens which were separated by a large, old weeping cherry tree. The monk explained how humans tend to see good and bad separately, although they exist together.
This weeping cherry tree is one of the temple’s main highlights in spring. Around the tenth of April, locals flood to witness its blooming, and enjoy the beauty of the area.
Then we proceeded towards Yoko-en, the beautiful koi pond (or so I thought). The monk explained how the temple came up with their own answer to the riddle from earlier – there was a catfish swimming somewhere in the pond, which was shaped like a gourd.
The gardens of Taizo-in temple are really beautiful, and worth a visit especially in autumn when the colours are in full swing. It’s a shame that this pretty temple is largely ignored.
As Taizo-in is a Zen Buddhist temple, it offers a variety of cultural activities you can take part in! I had the opportunity to try Zazen, a form of mediation, and highly recommend it. The temple also offers chado (tea ceremony) and kadoh (flower arranging), and you can even try Zen temple cuisine, shojin ryori! Advance reservation is required, and you can find more information on their fantastic English website.
Hours: 9am to 5pm
- Entrance fee (no guide): 500 yen
- Children (under 15 years old): 300 yen
- English guided tours (30 min, reservation required) for groups of more than 10 persons: 1,000 yen each