Gansen-ji, a temple of flowers known for its hydrangeas
Gansen-ji Temple is located on the border of Kyoto and Nara Prefectures in the lush green mountains. The temple is filled with a variety of flowers throughout the year. Especially from June to July, about 5,000 hydrangeas of about 35 varieties bloom in the grounds surrounding the three-story pagoda. Blue, purple, red, and white, hydrangeas create a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. Visitors can also enjoy the abundant seasonal flowers and plants, such as cherry blossoms and azaleas in spring, and water lilies and sarsaparilla in summer.
The history of Gansen-ji Temple dates back to 729, built by Gyoki at the request of Emperor Shomu. During the period when Nara Heijo-kyo Capital was the center of Japanese culture, this temple was located right behind it. As the outpost of the Heijo-kyo Capital, the temple was a place where high priests and ascetic monks from Kofuku-ji and Todai-ji temples retreated to devote themselves to true Buddhist faith.
The principal image of the temple, a seated Amida Nyorai, is one of the most representative Buddhist statues of the Heian period. It is believed to have been made by Gyoki. The three-storied pagoda on the tranquil precincts was built in the 9th century, lost in the Jokyu Incident. It was reconstructed in the Kamakura to Muromachi periods. In 2003, the pagoda was redecorated, and its vivid vermilion paint stands out against the mountains. The hydrangeas in early summer are beautiful, and the temple is also No. 15 on the “Sacred Sites of Flower Temples in Kansai.
Stone Buddhas “Magaibutsu”
Along the old road from Gansen-ji to Joruri-dera, there are many “Magaibutsu” (stone Buddhas carved into natural stones). You can see them everywhere, including beside rice paddies and in the shadows of trees. Most of them were built between the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, and many of them have inscriptions on them, making them a valuable historical heritage. The Tono area, including this group of stone Buddhas, has been selected as one of the “100 most beautiful places of historical interest in Japan” and is popular among many people as a hiking course to visit the stone Buddhas. It is a 40-minute walk from Gansen-ji to Joruri-ji Temple, which is a gentle downhill slope and very easy to walk.
Address : Kaminomon-43 Kamocho Iwafune, Kizugawa, Kyoto
Hours : 8:30 to 17:00 (MAR to NOV), 9:00 to 16:00 (DEC to FEB)
Admission : 500 yen
Access : Approx. 16-minute from Kamo Station on the JR Kansai Main Line by Kizugawa City Community Bus.