Kyoto is known as Japan’s cultural capital. It is covered with countless temples, shrines and other historical sites. However, many of the most popular areas as are often crowded and it is very difficult to lose yourself in these magnificent places. There is a hidden treasure in Kyoto known as Rurikoin Temple (瑠璃光院). This temple is not a main tourist destination and it is not usually listed in popular guide books. However, this temple has unbelievable sites and an amazing atmosphere.
Rurikoin Temple is surrounded with rich history. Although the exact date of construction is unknown, it was last renovated between the end of the Taisho period and the beginning of the Showa period. Dating back from the Asuka period, it is documented that Emperor Tenmu visited the steam bath called Kamaburo (釜風呂) to treat the wounds he suffered from during the Jinshin War (壬申の乱). Following his miraculous recovery, even more soldiers and nobility began to frequently visit the temple. By the Heian period, Rurikoin Temple became well known as a relaxation spot for noble families and wealthy citizens.
The best season to visit Rurikoin Temple is autumn while the leaves are changing, but summer, spring, and winter offer something different. After a short walk from Yase-Hieizanguchi station, the first sight of Rurikoin Temple will be the wooden gate and walls. The first impression you may have, is that it is old. Walking up the steps and through the gate, you will feel as if you are transported back in time. Surrounded by nature, outside noise disappears and it is very silent. As you make your way deeper, you will pass a pond featuring beautiful carp fish. Following along the path, you will begin to lose yourself in the lush vegetation. If you are there in autumn, you will see a technicolor array of over hundreds different types of plants. These autumn leaves are truly beautiful and pictures will never do them justice.
There are a number of different buildings and gardens to enjoy inside. Ruri-no-Niwa (瑠璃の庭) is characterized by its display of over ten different types of moss. This outcropping of moss is divided by a small stream and outlined with various trees and other types of vegetation.
The next garden, Garyo-no-Niwa (臥龍の庭) is designed to represent a dragon ascending to the heavens. The water feature, stones, and plants are all purposely placed to show this. This garden is said to open the mind of observers and bring out their luck. There also is a tea house called Kikaku-Tei (喜鶴亭). The appearance of this tea house is supposed to represent harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. Although the original Kama-buro (steam bath) that healed Emperor Tenmu is no longer there, you can still see the original Japanese style steam bath, Yase-no-Kamaburo (八瀬の釜風呂).
So when you are planning your next trip to Kyoto, remember that popular isn’t always the best. There are many hidden treasures like Rurikoin Temple to be enjoyed. If you happen to visit during autumn when the leaves are changing colors, Rurikoin Temple is one of the best places to observe this seasonal change. The isolation you feel here will make you feel like you are in your own world.
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Address: 55 Kamitakano-higashiyama, Sakyo ward, Kyoto
Access: Take a public bus from “Deiyanagi” Station to “Yase-Hieizanguchi station” bus stop and 5 minute walk from there
Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
2016.4.1 – 2016.5.31 (Spring)
2016.10.1 – 2016.12.4 (Autumn)
* Closed during summer and winter
Admission Fee: 2,000 yen
Website: Rurikoin Temple