The flower garden beneath the temple
Mimuroto-ji is a Buddhist temple of the Honzan-shugen branch, located on Uji’s hills, in the southern-east suburb of Kyoto. Founded 1,200 years ago by emperor Konin, the temple is the tenth of the 33 sacred sites to visit to accomplish the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage in Kansai. Its garden is also famous for the successive blooming of various types of flowers in spring.
A short walk in a residential area leads to Mimuroto-ji’s entrance. From there opens a wonderful flower garden covering the foot of the hill up to the temple’s buildings. From April to May, more than 20,000 azaleas, a thousand of rhododendrons as well as 10,000 hydrangeas bloom successively for the pleasure of the eyes. The main path goes straight to a steep stairway to the top of the hill where the main hall Hondo stands.
Up the stairway, the usual fountain for ablutions chozuya welcomes visitors. The main hall Hondo, built in the early 19th century, is dedicated to Bodhisattva Senju-Kannon, whose image is unfortunately hidden to the public. The dark colors of the wooden structure offer a stern contrast with the lush green of the lotus ponds surrounding it. With a closer look and depending on the season, it is possible to see multicolored dragonflies hovering freely in the green environment. A little bit farther is a small pavilion dedicated to Buddha Amida.
Original statues that can bring luck
On the main hall level, three bizarre statues are said to bring luck or grant wishes:
- Ugajin statue, on the right of the stairs near the chozuya, represents a smiling old man’s head on a snake body. This kami’s name is Ugajin, or Koma-hebi, and touching its head or its tail can bring fortune or happiness;
- Koma-ushi, the bull that brings luck when shoving one’s hand into its mouth; and,
- Koma-usagi, a rabbit holding a huge globe with its front legs. A smaller sphere is inserted in the globe, and according to the legend, those who succeed in lifting it have their wishes granted.
The walk continues with the wonderful three-storied pagoda Sanjunoto, of a brilliant vermilion, built at the same time as the main pavilion. The beautiful garden also features a little pond, inhabited by multicolored koi carps that give the place a magical and spiritual atmosphere. Finally, the visit ends in the garden glimpsed at the entrance of the temple. It is the true attraction of the place, which horticulture amateurs must visit in spring 🌸 to enjoy a lovely, small valley buried in flowers.