“Arashiyama (嵐山) is a pleasant district in the western outskirts of Kyoto, Japan. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons.” – http://www.japan-guide.com
We decided to visit the district as one of the highlights in Arashiyama is the famous Bamboo Garden. Lonely Planet notes: “Walking into this extensive bamboo grove is like entering another world – the thick green bamboo stalks seem to continue endlessly in every direction and there’s a strange quality to the light.” On CNN, it was referred to as one of the most beautiful groves on Earth. It is quite calming to walk through the grove and hear and see the trees gently swaying in the breeze. Within the forest are several Shinto shrines. Nearby we visited a beautiful Buddhist compound including a temple. And of course, on the main street there were many shopping and snacking opportunities for our small group of four.
“Seiryoji Temple is a time-honored temple of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism. It is better known as Sagashakado Temple (Hall of Shakyamuni Tathagata in Saga). Seikakan, the mountain villa of Minamoto-no-Toru, the model for Kikaru Genji, the hero of “Tale of Genji”, was once located at this place. After his death, the villa was converted into Seikaji Temple, which is the origin of Seiryoji Temple. In 1945, a life-size image of Shakyamuni Tathagata was enshrined. Thus, the temple is commonly called Sagashakado Temple. Later, the high priest Chonen came back from China (Sung) with a standing image of Shakyamuni Tathagata, which had been brought to Japan from India via China. In order to enshrine the image, the priest planned to build a new temple to be called ‘Great Seiryoji Temple’. Since he passed away without accomplishing his wish, his disciple, Jozan, established Seiryoji Temple and enshrined the image. In 1953, a covered space was found in the back of the image, and internal organs made of silk were placed inside. Since then, the image has also been called the living Shakyamuni Tathagata. The main hall was reconstructed at the initiative of the fifth Tokugawa Shogun Tsunayoshi, his mother, Keishoin, and others in 1701, where the principal image, the standing statue of Shakyamuni Tathagata (National Treasure), is located. The tombs of the high priest Chonen, Minamoto-no-Toru, Emperor Saga, and Empress Danrin are located in the precinct of the temple.” — from a signboard at Seiryoji Temple