Kyoto’s Moss Temple: A Hidden Gem and Steve Jobs’ Sanctuary

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Kyoto, Japan is home to a multitude of breathtaking attractions, but few are as awe-inspiring and elusive as Kokedera, also known as Saihoji, or the Moss Temple. Its beauty is unparalleled, captivating anyone lucky enough to visit. The Moss Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has gained notoriety as being the favorite place in Japan for none other than Steve Jobs himself.

Now, I must confess, the title of this article is a tad bit clickbait-ish. But bear with me, as I assure you, Kokedera truly deserves all the attention and more. The temple’s allure is not just in its exclusivity, which is a result of its cumbersome mail-only reservation process, but also in its serene and minimalist design – principles that resonated deeply with Jobs and influenced his aesthetic vision.

Steve Jobs’ adoration for Kyoto is well-documented, and he made numerous visits to Kokedera/Saihoji/Moss Temple during his lifetime. The temple’s aesthetic, though seemingly unrelated to the sleek design of an iPhone, encompasses the same sense of minimalism and tranquility that Jobs admired. In a way, one could argue that Kokedera provided the inspiration for the iconic iPhone.

But let’s not let Steve Jobs steal the spotlight here. Kokedera is a marvel in its own right, deserving of recognition independent of its famous admirers.

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Securing a reservation at Kokedera is no easy task. The temple’s popularity combined with the reservation system, limits daily attendance, making it a coveted experience. To make a reservation, one must follow the official Saihoji Temple website’s instructions, which involve purchasing a round-trip postcard from the post office and addressing it to the Saihoji Temple Worship Clerk.

Obtaining reservations may seem like a daunting task, but the reward is well worth the effort. It’s an accomplishment in itself, especially for visitors who are not staying in Japan for an extended period. For those with limited time, inquiring with hotel concierges about making reservations can be a viable option.

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Upon arrival at Kokedera, visitors are greeted by the gatekeeper, who verifies the reservation confirmation postcard. After paying the entrance fee at the reception, guests are directed to individual desks where they partake in Buddhist rituals, copying sutras, making wishes, and engaging in chants.

The immersive experience at Kokedera sets it apart from many other temples in Japan. Visitors become active participants in the rituals, following the lead of Japanese locals seated alongside them. The solemn ambiance and the guidance of fellow participants create a sense of unity and tranquility.

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After completing the rituals, visitors are free to explore the grounds of the Moss Temple independently. This part of the journey is undeniably the highlight of the visit. The 35,000 square meters garden, in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is registered as a Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty in Japan.

Despite initial concerns about tour groups diminishing the experience, they actually tended to breeze through the temple grounds, leaving ample time for lingering and absorbing the captivating atmosphere. Kokedera Temple’s garden boasts over 120 different varieties of moss, creating a lush and otherworldly landscape. As you stroll along the loop that wraps around Saihoji Temple’s pond, you’ll be mesmerized by the vibrant shades of green, each step revealing a new aspect of nature’s artistry.

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For those fortunate enough to visit Kokedera, the experience is nothing short of magical. Every nook and cranny of the temple’s grounds holds a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Having the opportunity to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site at your own pace, with no other visitors in sight, is a rare privilege. It allows for an intimate connection with the surroundings, where time seems to stand still, and the beauty of nature envelops your senses.

As we reluctantly departed from the Moss Temple, heavy rain began to pour, as if bidding us farewell. We returned to the reception area to express our gratitude, and to our surprise, a staff member escorted us to the entrance under an umbrella, showcasing the hospitality and warmth that Japan is known for.

Overall, our visit to Kokedera was a profound and unforgettable experience. The vibrant moss and the spiritual aura of the temple left an indelible mark on our souls. However, it’s important to note that fully appreciating Kokedera requires ample time, which may not be feasible for the average traveler with limited days in Kyoto. Additionally, securing reservations can be challenging for most visitors to Japan.

But if by some stroke of luck or persistence, you manage to obtain those coveted reservations, we wholeheartedly recommend embarking on this extraordinary journey. As Steve Jobs aptly said, Kokedera is undeniably one of the best places in Kyoto.

Your Thoughts

Have you been fortunate enough to experience the enchantment of the Moss Temple? Share your thoughts, tips, and personal anecdotes in the comments below. Although visiting Kokedera may seem like a distant dream, if you have any questions about the reservation process or the overall experience, feel free to ask. We’re here to provide more information and to inspire your wanderlust for the hidden gems of Kyoto.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, particularly to Kyoto, we recommend consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan for comprehensive planning. Be sure to explore our other posts about Japan to discover more captivating destinations.

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