As all the roads around Ohara district of Sakyoky, Kyoto lead to the bigger Sanzenin temple, a small trail runs around the hills, passing by historical and natural landmarks, through the ancient atmosphere of Ohara village, guiding tourists to a tiny temple Jakkoin, ranking with Sanzenin as some of the most famous scenic temples of Ohara. If the attraction of Sanzenin temple is the spectacular scene of red leaves following autumn to come to cover the scattered structure of the temple on the mossy ground, Jakkoin hides a secret beauty looming even along the beautiful path leading to the temple filled with scenic nature views. Let’s escape the crowded city and follow this tiny temple to meet the most modest happiness.
Jakkoin temple welcomes visitors by a worn stone steps leading up through luxuriant old trees to the front gate. Behind the gate, it wraps a secluded and quiet atmosphere, even with a slight air of melancholy pervading the ground. It is a quite small space but warm and joyful with yellow and red branches knitting crosswise looking like a colorful shawl stretching between little parts of the temple. Visitors come to Jakkoin enjoy to take off their shoes to enter into the main hall to listen to a brief history of the temple in Japanese, hearing the deep voice mingled with a slight birdsong along with the soft and low whisper of trees outside.The precinct is small but enough to contain a small art gallery of scrolls of calligraphy and paintings, a bell tower and pieces of garden embracing calm ponds.
There are two special things to tell about Jakkoin temple, one is a precious statue of Jizo, the protector of children, and the other is a 700-year-old tree. Unfortunately, both of them were lost with the main temple building in fire in 2000. Five years later, they rebuilt the temple with a replica of the statue and the old tree left a giant stump in garden. The old tree is said to be an old pine tree and it took 4 years to wither after the fire. Small chips of the remaining wood were inserted into limited edition charms that you can buy from the gallery.
Jakkoin temple was originally a nunnery of Tendai sect established in about 594 by the Prince Shotoku-Taishi in memory of his late father Emperor Yomei. Overall, Jakkoin is famous as a place where Kenreimonin, the daughter of the chief of Heike clan Taira no Kiyomori and the consort of Emperor Takakura lived in seclusion after being rescued from her attempted suicide when the Heike clan was destroyed by Minamoto no Yoshitsune at the naval battle of Dan-no-ura. Widowed, losing her whole family including her 8-year-old son and dispossessed of all she once had, Kenreimonin spent the rest of her life at Jakkoin temple, praying for the souls of the deceased. The story may explain for the scent of deep loneliness floating around the temple.