Yoshimine-dera Temple: Power Spot in Kyoto Where You can Feel Seasonal Changes
Kyoto ranked top in the world’s popular tourist city ranking announced by the American magazine “Travel + Leisure.” Once you visit the city, you will soon find yourself embracing a peace of mind away from the bustles of everyday lives. Among many other shrines and temples in Kyoto, here we introduce you to Yoshimine-dera Temple, which is a well-known but not-too-often visited power spot where you can enjoy the beauty and grace of each season. Photo: https://www.flickr.com
Yoshimine-dera is a temple located high up a steep hill in the mountainous area of Oharano, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto City. The temple is set off west to the central part of Kyoto, which was because it was built when the teaching of Jodo Buddhism that west is the direction of paradise became prevalent. The large part of the head temple was lost in a fire in the Muromachi Period (the 14th – 16th century) but was restored later by Keishoin, the mother of Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, the 5th shogun (general) of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is today renowned for its 1,000 years of history. Information: Map
Talisman with Mystic Power of Buddha
In January, 1995, the whole Kansai Area suffered an enormous earthquake, which is today referred to as the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Amidst the collapse of thousands of buildings, there was one expressway which went on the verge of falling down with a large bus hanging off the elevated road. Actually, all of the passengers in the bus were rescued and it was found that the driver of the bus was carrying a talisman of Yoshimine-dera. After that, people started to believe in the mystic power of Buddha enshrined at the temple and the talismans of the temple became popular as a lucky item to “prevent falls,” especially among students preparing for college exams because “prevent falls” (ochinai) in Japanese also means “not failing at exams.”
The temple also has “Jizo statue of happiness (Kofuku Jizo),” which is relatively less-known. This statue will make you feel soothed just by looking at it and is surely worth a check-out. The steep hill behind the statue is always blessed with natural beauty of each season; cherry blossoms in spring, hydrangeas in summer and colored leaves in autumn. You can enjoy a peace of mind to look at the statue while being startled at the beauty and grandness of nature at the same time here.
Best Parts within the Temple Site of Yoshimine-dera
1. Yuryu No Matsu (Huge Pine Tree)
On the site of the temple is a huge pine tree called “Yuryu No Matsu.” Aged over 600 years and stretching crosswise along 37 meters at maximum, this gigantic tree is designated as a natural monument of Japan. The branches stretching out so far and wide that they cannot be easily captured within the camera frame are staggering and definitely worth seeing. As the backdrop of the tree changes its color by season, you can enjoy the beauty of “Yuryu No Matsu” specific to each season.
2. 300 Years Old Shidare Cherry Tree
Another great feature of Yoshimine-dera is the 300 years old Shidare cherry tree (or “Shidare Zakura,” cherry tree with drooping branches), which was planted by Keishoin (the mother of Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, the 5th shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate). In Japan, the area under cherry trees are said to be great power spots in the spring. Regardless of the credibility of such a belief, the magnificent view of cherry trees with thousands of pastel pink flowers in full bloom will surely give you a lot of energy. Besides this old Shidare cherry, within the temple site are also more than 100 cherry trees in a variety of kinds.
Natural Attractions of Each Season
In spring, Yoshimine-dera will be surrounded by blossoms of cherry, azalea, peony and various other flowers. Cherry trees blossom not only at the temple site but everywhere else and color the whole surface of Mt. Nishiyama pink. You can enjoy such a splendid view because the temple is located in the mountain.
After cherry blossoms fall, it will be the season of abundant fresh energy of greenery with young leaves starting to sprout. The fresh breeze carrying the scent of vegetation, which you can enjoy just before the rainy season, will surely refresh your whole body and soul.
– Cherry Blossoms: From Early to Late April
– Azalea and Peony: Early-May
Yoshimine-dera also has one of Kyoto’s largest hydrangea gardens, which is about 1 hectare in size and covered with about 10 thousand hydrangeas. The pathway in the garden overlooks the whole city of Kyoto. Kyoto is known for the hot and humid weather in summer but the temple makes a great shelter to avoid the heat of summer as it is located on the elevated land and has a lower temperature than the downtown.
– Hydrangea: Mid-June to Early-July
– Crepe Myrtle: August
About as many as 5,000 Japanese anemones blossom here on the temple site in autumn. The flowers are elegant and adorable in appearance, which soothe the heart of all visitors. It is the flower that announces the arrival of autumn in the area.
In the middle of autumn, not only the temple site but also the whole surface of Mt. Nishiyama will become all red with colored leaves and make a wonderful view that you can only enjoy only in mountains. Another thing that is highly recommendable in autumn is a tour on about 2 hours trekking course from Mukomachi Station of Hankyu Line or JR across the bamboo woods in Oharano and some autumn leaves viewing spots through to Yoshimine-dera.
– Japanese Anemone: Mid-September to Early-October
– Autumn Leaves: Mid-November to Early-December
Come the winter, the temple site will be immersed in thick silence and it would be a soul-purifying experience to visit the temple in a peaceful and solemn atmosphere. The snow will turn the surrounding area into a world of silver, where the natural monument pine tree “Yuryu No Matsu” will also be in a snow blanket. The beautiful snowy scenery in winter here will take your breath away.
– Snowscape: December to January
Yoshimine-dera is one of the few temples that command a panoramic view of the whole city of Kyoto on clear days. Though located a little off the downtown area, it will surely be your unforgettable tourist spot. Be sure to include this temple in your itinerary if you ever explore Kyoto.