Saiho-ji Temple (Koke-dera Temple)

Saiho-ji Temple (Koke-dera Temple) © T.Tanabe

What is Koke-dera Temple?

Koke-dera Temple is formally known as Saiho-ji Temple and is a Rinzai sect temple founded by Buddhist monk, Gyoki under the royal command of Emperor Shomu during the Nara period (710-794). During the Heian period (794-1185), Kukai, grandmaster who propagated Buddhism and founder of the Shingon sect, worshipped here. It became a Jodo sect temple and training hall during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), under Honenshonin, a religious reformer, before facing devastation. It later became a Zen temple and training ground during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) under Buddhist monk Musokokushi, who had gained the devotion of Emperor Godaigo and Ashikaga Takauji, founder of the Ashikaga shogunate. Musokokushi was also a well-known landscapist and used the slopes and inclines of the mountain to create a two-part temple garden. The upper level is a dry landscape garden and the lower level was created around a pond.

Around the pond of the lower level of the temple garden are over 120 types of blue moss that spreads across the land like a green carpet. From this beautiful appearance, Saiho-ji Temple got the name Koke-dera (Moss Temple).

Currently, the general public cannot worship at this temple. Only those who participate in religious ceremonies such as, sutra chanting and hand-copying sutra are allowed to worship here. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, along with his family came to worship at Koke-dera incognito.


2-3 minute walk from the "Saiho-ji Suzumushi-dera" stop (final stop) on the Kyoto Bus #73 or #83 (both going toward "Saiho-ji Suzumushi-dera"). 10 minute taxi ride from JR Saga Arashiyama Station.

Description: Saiho-ji Temple (Koke-dera Temple)

Sights Saiho-ji Temple (Koke-dera Temple) (苔寺(西芳寺))
Address 615-1153 Kyoto, Saikyo-ku, Matsuo Jingatani-cho 56
Phone / Fax Phone: 075-391-3631
Duration 1Hour(s)
Closed dates Specific dates
Admission Fee Pay admission: 3,000yen
Recommended Season
Spring (March - May)
Summer (June - August) Autumn (September - November) Winter (December - February)
Recommended target Family Couples Groups Child (ages 7-17) Adult (ages 20+) Single traveller

Map: Saiho-ji Temple (Koke-dera Temple)