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Don’t Miss Out! Five Temples Open for Special Viewings in the Spring of 2018

In the spring, many temples in Kyoto have special viewings of their cultural properties that are usually not available for the public to see. This time, we introduce five highly recommended temples to visit at this time.

1. Shokokuji Special Spring Visit

This is a Zen temple that is the head temple of the Shokokuji Sect of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism. Its lecture hall is the oldest lecture hall in a Japanese temple and it is a national treasure. It is usually closed to the public, but it is available to see during the special spring visiting period. The picture of a Banryu-zu (coiled dragon) on the ceiling is famous, and it is referred to as the Naki-ryu (crying dragon) because the echoing sounds that are made by clapping hands in the hall sounds like a dragon crying. The bathroom—an important part of Zen training for its representation of cleansing the body and soul—is also open to the public during the spring.

Schedule: Saturday, March 24 - Monday, June 4, 2018
Entrance fee: 800 JPY/general and college students, 700 JPY junior high and high school students and seniors 65 years or older, 400 JPY/elementary school students

1. Shokokuji Special Spring Visit

701 Shokokuji Monzen-cho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-shi Kyoto

2. Daigoji Temple Special Reihokan Exhibition

This is the head temple of the Daigo Sect of the Shingon School of Buddhism. It is the largest temple in Kyoto City with its grounds stretching from the foot to the top of Mt. Daigo. It has many valuable buildings, such as the oldest Goju-no-to (five-story pagoda) in Kyoto, as well as the Kondo and Yakushido. Reihokan is the building in which more than 100,000 treasures, such as statues of Buddha, paintings, and craftwork, are housed, and parts of the treasure are shown to the public during special exhibitions in the spring and fall. The Sanboin, which consists of rooms such as Aoi-no-ma, Akikusa-no-ma, and Chokushi-no-ma (Important Cultural Property) with beautiful drawings on fusuma sliding screens, as well as the national treasure, Omote-Shoin, is another highlight. There are about 1,000 cherry blossoms on the grounds so it is also a great place to enjoy the blossoms.

Schedule: Tuesday, March 20 - Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Entrance Fee (Sanboin, Garan, Reihokan): 1,500 JPY/adult, 1,000 JPY/junior high and high school students

2. Daigoji Temple Special Reihokan Exhibition

22 Daigo Higashioji-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

3. Kodaiji Temple Special Spring Exhibition and Evening Hours

This is a temple of the Kenninji Sect of the Rinzai School of Buddhism. It was built by Kita-no-Mandokoro in memory of her late husband, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a famous warrior lord. It was once a grand temple, but due to fires, all that remains today is the main entrance, Kaizando hall, Kangetsudai, and the Kasa-tei and Shigure-tei tearooms, both of which are Important Cultural Properties. The elegant yet edgy Kodaiji Makie lacquer and treasures related to Kita-no-Mandokoro can be seen in the special exhibition.

Schedule: Friday, March 9 - Sunday, May 6, 2018
Entrance fee: 600 JPY/adult, 250 JPY/junior high and high school student

3. Kodaiji Temple Special Spring Exhibition and Evening Hours

526 Shimokawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

4. Hogon-in Temple Special Spring Hours

Hogon-in is a subtemple of the Rinzai Zen head temple Tenryu-ji. It is usually not open to the public, but has special hours in the springtime every year. The highlight is the Shishiku no Niwa (the Lion's Roar Garden), a stroll garden with a central pond with Mt. Arashiyama as the backdrop. The garden has a dry stone construct representing the Ryumon Baku (the Dragon Gate Falls) upstream of the Yellow River in China, a huge rock called Shishi Iwa (the Lion Rock), as well as beautiful green maple and a carpet of moss.

Schedule: mid-March - late June, 2018
Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult, 300 JPY/elementary, junior high and high school student *An additional fee is charged for the main hall (500 JPY/adult)

4. Hogon-in Temple Special Spring Hours

36 Sagatenryuji Susukino Baba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

5. Ginkakuji Special Opening of the National Treasure Togudo

This is a temple of the Shokokuji Sect of the Rinzai School of Buddhism, and is a popular tourist destination. It is known for the Kannondo (national treasure) that is a prime example of multi-storied garden architecture. During the special opening in the spring, Togudo, which is a national treasure, is available to see. Some highlights are the Dojinsai, which is considered to be the archetypical yojo-han tearoom (yojo-han is 4.5 tatami mats (about 3 sq.m.), which is said to be the standard size of a tearoom) and fusuma sliding screen paintings by the famous Edo Period (1603 - 1867) painters, Yosa Buson and Ike no Taiga. The hondo main hall and Rousei-tei are also open during this time.

Schedule: mid-March - early May every year
Special entrance fee: 1,000 JPY *In addition to the regular entrance fee of 500 JPY

5. Ginkakuji Special Opening of the National Treasure Togudo

2 Ginkakuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

These special viewings are wonderful opportunities to see valuable architecture and temple treasures that are usually not open to the public. Be sure to visit if you are in Kyoto in the spring.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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