I’ve been in Japan since May, so that’s almost 9 months, give or take. My primary goal upon coming to Japan was to experience as much, if not all, of Kyoto as I can. Well… even though I have been to Kyoto six times I still haven’t even seen half of it! There is just so much! It truly is the cultural and historical hub of Japan. On my most recent trip I visited the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple, a smaller temple on the outskirts of the city.
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple is not easy to get to. Every time I go to Kyoto, my first stop is at the tourist information center in Kyoto Station. Someone there always speaks English and can give me directions to where I’d like to go. Otagi Nenbutsu-ji is not terribly close to a train station – it is close to a bus stop, but the bus only runs a couple of times a day. Based on a review I read on Trip Advisor and the help I received in the Kyoto tourist center, I opted to take the train to Saga Arashiyama and then take a taxi the rest of the way to the temple. The temple itself isn’t too terribly far from the station, maybe only a couple of kilometers, but it was nicer to let the taxi driver drop me off at the entrance and then walk back on my own.
The front gate of Otagi Nenbutsu-ji is directly on the road. The entrance gate isn’t any more or less appealing than any of the other temples in Kyoto, and Otagi Nenbutsu-ji is not a terribly large temple. Luckily the taxi driver knew exactly where it was. I paid 300 yen (something like 3 Japanese dollars) to enter, which is less than the normal 500+ yen at most other temples. I was given a small map and some additional information in English.
The draw to this particular temple were the Rakan, which I originally though were small Buddha statues. There are around 1200 carved Rakan, or statues of people who follow Buddha. According to Wikipedia, the Rakan statues are generally funny and kawaii (kawaii is the Japanese term for ‘cute,’ generally overused by girls. I could devote an entire blog post to the word!). Followers of Buddhism and this specific temple, were invited to carve Rakan to be placed on the grounds of the temple. This is the primary reason why all of the Rakan are so different! I saw Rakan holding birds, laughing, playing tennis, with children – quite a variety! Most of the statues are only about 30 years old, but just like everything else in Japan, most of them are covered in moss, and when I visited, they even had a layer of snow. Most of the statues are great, but a few are not – I didn’t spot any of the wonky ones, but they can be found here.
There are tons of temples, tori gates, gardens, a doll museum, restaurants and cafes on the way back to the train station from Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, which makes it easy to make an afternoon exploration if you’re truly in the mood or have the time.
Check Otagi Nenbutsu-ji out! It’s one of the more unique temples in Kyoto!