Today I will tell about my visit to Ohara, a popular district in the outskirts of Kyoto, by also providing some instructions to get to this place, which is located in the north-east of Kyoto, and which presents some very interesting Buddhist temples, in a rural and less touristic japanese atmosphere.
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The thing that i loved most of Ohara, was the feeling of being really immersed in Japan. With this article, I hope to express all the nice emotions I felt in this place
HOW TO GET TO OHARA FROM KYOTO
To get to Ohara, I took the bus number 17 directly from Kyoto station, which passed every 20 minutes. In particular, the trip took about a hour, and costed around 600 yen.
Once arrived, the tourist is immediately surrounded by the countryside and the provincial atmosphere of the place, and once you reach the beginning of Ohara, you can easily go along the main path leading to the tourist area, where all the temples are situated. In particular, the tourist path is unique, so it is very easy to visit this place without the risk of getting lost.
While walking, the atmosphere is lovely, with a good number of artisans and merchants, and a lovely stream that runs parallel to the whole path.
Surely, if you visit this place during the fall season, the atmosphere will be even more enchanting thanks to the vibrant red and orange colors of this season, due to the change of colour of maples trees.
Once arrived to the trail, on the left side there was a lovely café, where I enjoyed a delicious japanese-style dessert before starting the visit.
Continuing on the path, I then spent some time to admire the stands of merchants, by wondering to make some shopping like I was a true Japanese citizen. And finally, once in the temple area, I started to visit the various sites of interest.
In particular, there were three temples, called respectively Hosen-in, Shorin-in, and finally Sanzen-in.
VISIT TO HOSEN-IN TEMPLE
Visiting Hosen-in amazed me a lot, thanks to the fact that inside I was able to participate to the tea ceremony. Also, in this temple, there was a beautiful and ancient pine tree, approximately 700 years old. It was possible to admire it directly from the veranda of the temple which was surrounded by other beautiful trees like maples, all presenting a very warm color, between yellow, orange and the red.
I sat on the veranda together with some other visitors, and after a few moments, the temple staff served us a cup of matcha tea.
The pine tree (the one in the first picture of this article) of this temple was amazing, because over the years it has undergone particularly large grafts that have made him twisted and immense.
About the tea ceremony instead, macha tea is known to be one of the finest tea in the world. It is served in a very special way, inside a large cup and in the form of a vibrant green foam, which is realized by using an appropriate instrument of bamboo called chasen.
Macha tea has a taste which is particularly earthy and grassy, and some people might not like it, especially because it is served with just few water, by making the flavor particularly intense. However, beyond its taste, the tea macha uses only the best green tea leaves, and undergoes a very delicate and advanced treatment that make it a precious and expensive product.
Admiring this beautiful garden with this ancient pine tree in the middle while sipping a cup of matcha tea has been definitely a lovely experience. In the temple of Hosen-in, I could also take a short walk inside its zen garden, where I saw some nice curlicues on the gravel, like a clockwise spiral, a typical sign of the Zen tradition, which means “man”, or woman if made counterclockwise.
VISIT TO SHORIN-IN TEMPLE (NOT SHOREN-IN)
Continuing with the visit, it was now time to visit the Shorin-in Temple (not to be confused with Shoren-in, the one of Kyoto in the district of Higashiyama), which contained a beautiful and very large golden statue of the Buddha Amida. Inside, while I was admiring the statue, I could see a Japanese man intent on saying a prayer by ringing a small bell right in front of the Buddha statue, which was quite fascinating, because of its size and pronounced golden color, even more emphasised by the delicate sunlight that penetrated from the veranda of the temple.
Shorin-in temple was also enriched by a quite nice garden, accompanied by a very tall trees wood, though, if I remember correctly, it was not possible to visit it entirely because partially fenced.
After visiting the Shorin-in Temple, it was now time for lunch, so along the path leading to the temples, I made a stop at a lovely restaurant which served some delicious sushi, along with a good ramen noodles with tempura. The food was really good and after I finished, I got back to the trail again to visit the last of the three temples that I intended to see, Sanzen-in.
VISIT TO SANZEN-IN TEMPLE
And now it was time to visit Sanzen-in. The temple of Sanzen-in is perhaps the most famous and largest of Ohara, not only for its size, but also because throughout its garden there are some small stone faces depicting its buddhist monks (at least I believe they represent monks), statues that have traveled around the world certainly more than me, thanks to the large number of photos they receive every day from visitors
NOTE: WHERE ARE THE STONE FACES OF SANZEN-IN?
They are situated just at the very end of the temple gardens, on the right side of the last piece of garden just before the exit
In the same way of Hosen-in, in this temple too it was possible to admire the garden from a nice veranda, and here too, thanks to the autumn, the colors were very vibrant and bright, going from yellow, to orange, to a deep red, although sincerely I don’t remember if in this temple too it was possible to take part to the matcha tea ceremony.
The visit to the temple of Sanzen-in is one that definitely took a longer time because this place is very big.
One of the things I remember with pleasure was the amazing blanket of red leaves present on the ground all around the temple, some of which, perhaps due to an effect of oxidation, had even some shades of color ranging from purple to an intense fuchsia.
In the center of the gardens of the temple there was finally a beautiful incense burner, from which a candid smoke was coming out, together with a delicate fragrance, through which the sun rays were getting lost.
After visiting Sanzen-in, the day was finishing, and it was almost dusk. I walked back along the path, while admiring the sun setting behind the mountains.
TIME TO GO BACK TO KYOTO
Finally, on the way back, just on the left side where some cars were parked, just for a case, I even discovered a beautiful flowery field, with countless purple flowers, that, togheter with the background of the Kyoto countryside, created a landscape that I will never forget.
And it is precisely with this beautiful scenery that I concluded my trip to Ohara.
Visiting Ohara has been a significant experience for me, because it allowed me to immerse myself in a much deeper japanese reality, being that it is a nice rural and provincial area of Japan, surrounded by the typical Japanese mountains covered with forests, fields, and typical houses of wood.
Furthermore, in Ohara, tourism is not particularly high as in the center of Kyoto, and so, this amplifies the feeling of being an integral part of Japan even more. I believe that the visit to Ohara, requires a full day, so in planning a trip to Kyoto, if you want to visit it, I think it’s fine to reserve one full day to this place.
To return to Kyoto, I simply got back to the bus station and took the same bus in the opposite direction towards the central station of the city.
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