Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Jikkō-in – A Temple to Adore Cherry Blossoms from Autumn

Next to Sanzen-in, Jikkō-in (実光院) is another temple with stunning garden views in Ōhara (大原). While the ground of the gardens of Jikkō-in is covered by moss, the flowers of around 150 different kinds of plants will catch your attention from spring to autumn. In winter, another highlight of Jikkō-in is the cherry tree that blooms in the snow! On top of the gardens, you can also admire the paintings from the Edo period (1603 – 1867) when you visit the temple.

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Jikkō-in’s History

Jikkō-in was built as one of the four sub-temples of Shōrin-in (勝林院) around 1013 by Jyakugen (寂源) from Enryaku-ji Temple in Mt. Hiei. However, due to internal conflicts in Enryaku-ji, Jikkō-in was destroyed alongside Shōrin-in not too long after its construction.

Thanks to the monk named Sōshinhōin (宗信法印), Jikkō-in was revived where the Mausoleum of Emperors Gotoba and Juntoku (後鳥羽天皇・順徳天皇大原陵) stands between 1394 – 1428. Why did he want to rebuild the temple around the Emperors’ Mausoleum? Because the temple held a deep connection with the 10th son of Emperor Gotoba, who became the head of the Tendai sect at the time.

But in 1919, the Ministry of the Imperial Household (宮内省) ordered the relocation of Jikkō-in, as the temple was recognized as private property, which shouldn’t be on the grounds of the Mausoleum that belonged to the Imperial family. The decision to relocate Jikkō-in was thus made.

At the time, Fugen-in (普賢院) was, and Rikaku-in (理覚院) didn’t have monks living in the temples. These two temples were also one of the four sub-temples under Shōrin-in. Jikkō-in and Rikaku-in were thus consolidated into Fugen-in’s precinct.

Jikkō-in’s Kyakuden Hall (客殿)

Due to the consolidation, the Jikkō-in’s Kyakuden Hall beyond the Sanmon Gate (山門) was reconstructed in 1921.

Because Jikkō-in is a small temple, staff might not always be at the reception. When no one is around, ring the gong hanging above the shoe cabinet (refer to the 2nd and the 3rd photo in the IG post)! In fact, all guests are welcome to ring the gong. We only noticed it on the way out, but we also gave it a try!

When we say Jikkō-in is small, we mean it is compact. Usually, a temple has a Kyakuden Hall for guests and the main hall to enshrine Buddhas. However, the main image of Jikkō-in, Jizō Bodhisattva (地蔵菩薩) is enshrined in the Kyakuden Hall’s Kyaku-ma (客間) room (refer to the 4th and the 5th photo in the IG post).

Moreover, check out the lintel in Kyakuden. You will find the paintings of the Thirty-Six Poets (三十六詩仙) drawn in the mid-Edo period. They were painted by Kanō school’s painters.

The Thirty-Six Poets are the 36 most famous poets from China’s Han, Jin, Tang, and Song Dynasties.

Besides the gong at the entrance, there are other traditional musical instruments you can play at Jikkō-in. They were all used when the monks sang the Buddhist hymns.

Apparently, those are the chief priest’s collections!

The Kyaku-ma is surrounded by two gardens. At the south is a Chisenkanshō-style (池泉鑑賞式) garden that is designed to showcase its water feature. To the west, you have a strolling garden.

Before you take a stroll in the gardens, how about ordering a bowl of matcha green tea and a Japanese sweet to adore the scenery from Kyaku-ma first?

Keishin-en Garden (契心園)

In the south of the Kyaku-ma, the Keishin-en is a garden constructed in the late Edo period that belonged to Fugen-in (普賢院). The pine tree on the artificial mountain represents a crane. The round island in the pond is in the shape of a turtle. Both animals are symbols of longevity.

The small waterfall at the far back, close to the pine tree, sources water from the Rissen River (律川). The pond underneath the waterfall is called Shinji-ike (心字の池), the Pond of Heart. The pond has the shape of the Chinese character “Heart”.

The side that is closer to Kyakuden Hall represents the human world. Across the river, the artificial mountain symbolizes the Amida Buddha’s Pure Land.

The garden in the first and second photos in the IG post is Keishin-en.

Tip: During the green season, it is hard to see the pine tree representing a crane because of the surrounding foliage. So winter or even fall is probably the best season to examine the garden in detail.

Kyū Rikaku-in Garden (旧理覚院庭園) and the Teahouse: Rikaku-an (茶室 理覚庵)

From the back of Kyakuden’s reception, you can head out to the Kyū Rikaku-in and Rikaku-an. Slippers are available there, so there is no need to fetch your shoes from the front entrance.

The former Rikaku-in’s garden smartly incorporates the distant mountain scenery and integrates its magnificence with the greenery in the garden. Since the consolidation of the three temples, chief priests have gradually added new features to this garden.

On the garden’s northwest side, there is a teahouse (refer to the 1st and the 2nd photos in the IG post). Rikaku-an was built in 1975 using Japanese cypress logged from the nearby forests.

From November to April each year, the most unique thing in the garden is probably the 100-year-old cherry blossom tree named Fudansakura (不断桜). It is a rare variety of cherry trees that blooms from the end of September to spring each year.

Just note don’t expect a tree covered with flowers if you visit Jikkō-in in autumn and winter. There were flowers when we were there in late November, but the tree wasn’t too impressive to look at (refer to the last two photos in the IG post).

The Cherry Blossom and the Fall Foliage Season at Jikkō-in

  • The cherry trees in the temple usually bloom from early to mid-April.
  • The fall foliage season peaks from mid to late November.

Jikkō-in’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • The temple is open from 9 am to 4 pm.
    • In November, the temple closes late at 4:30 pm.
  • The required time to explore Jikkō-in is around 20 minutes.
  • The admission fee is
    • 500 yen for adults
    • 300 yen for elementary school students
    • 300 yen for a bowl of matcha tea and a sweet only (no admission)
  • From Ōhara bus stop (大原), it is around a 10-minute walk

Discover Other Fascinating Attractions in Ōhara

In addition to Jikkō-in, a couple more temples in Ōhara are worth your time.

In our Ōhara article, we have also included a couple of dining options for lunch or dinner and general information about the spiritual village. You will also find a recommended itinerary you can follow for a day in Ōhara!

Click the photo to find out more information about Ōhara!

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