Koke-dera, which means “Moss Temple” is one of the most aptly named temples in Kyoto. It’s a lush green paradise than can only be visited by application.
Saiho-ji “Koke-dera” Moss Temple image © Damien Douxchamps
Kyoto’s relatively damp and humid climate is perfect for growing moss, and nowhere is this more evident than in the garden at Saiho-ji Temple, better known in Japanese as “Koke-dera,” which means “Moss Temple.” You have to apply in advance to apply (see below). Once you arrive (at the appointed time on your acceptance postcard), you’ll first have to copy a sutra (Buddhist text like a prayer) before being allowed to tour the garden. Don’t worry too much about this. It’s all pretty self-explanatory and you can just look at what the nearest Japanese person is doing. And, you don’t have to finish the whole sutra – just wait until the first Japanese people start standing up and slipping out into the garden and then join them. Here’s how to apply:
Send a postcard at least 7 working days before the date you wish to visit and include your name, number of visitors in your group, address in Japan (this can be a hotel or ryokan), occupation, age (you must be over 18) and desired date of visit (I suggest giving two or three possible choices). The address is:
Enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard for a reply to your Japanese address. If you have time, you can buy an Ofuku-hagaki (send-and-return postcard set) at a Japanese post office.
Name in English:
Koke-dera (Saiho-ji) Temple
Name in Japanese:
56 Matsuo-Jingatani-cho, Nishikyo-ku
Opening hours: Appointed time
Non-smoking area: Yes
2min walk from Kokedera Suzumushidera Bus Stop, Kyoto Bus 73 or 83 from Kyoto Station
Where Is This Place Located?See these places on our Kyoto Google map:
- Open the Kyoto map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world