Moss garden of Saihō-ji. Japan
Kyoto – the ancient capital of Japan. It is a place where the mountains surrounding the city provide constant moisture and long summer rainy seasons create favorable conditions for the growth and survival of moss. Famous Japanese Gardens of moss first appeared in the XII century. These gardens are called “Koke-dera”. The name is formed from two Japanese words “koke” – moss and “dera” – temple. So, these gardens are called temples. Moss has long been considered a traditional element of Japanese gardens. Some of these gardens are mentioned as far back as in the seventh century AD. The most famous of them is the temple of Koinzan Saiho-ji, located at the foot of Mount Koinzan in the west of Kyoto.
Saihō-ji was founded by a monk Gyōki during the Nara Period. The internecine wars destroyed the temple and the garden was destroyed, but in 1339 it was restored. And by the famous Japanese gardener Musō Soseki helped the Saihō-ji to be revived as a Zen temple. After the master’s death his disciples continued the work more than a hundred years. Exactly during this period the moss began to appear on the territory and was left as a basic element of the decor. Thus, about 130 species of moss covers today the entire area of the garden – the soil, tree trunks, stones. These picturesque landscapes of various shades of green evoke admiration. In the center of this amazing garden-carpet there is a pond in the shape of the Chinese character “heart” or “mind”, and 3 small islands in it.
Unfortunately, this garden can’t be called a tourist attraction. It is intended for meditation and prayers, and only for that purpose it welcomes people. This is a very serious rule; you will get here only after the provisional application and payment. The gardens of moss are probably the most amazing and unusual among all the gardens. Europeans consider it harmful and eradicate, while the Japanese made it an element of art and develop till perfected. The monks Zen Buddhists wrote about the gardens of moss in their annals and books more than 1000 years ago. Traditional Japanese garden is a clear demonstration of the philosophy. In this garden, you will find peace and wisdom.
In 1994, Saihō-ji was recognized as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto” and included into the UNESCO World Heritage Site.