Even though they are thousands of miles away and separated by oceans, the climate and mountains of Kyoto are not so different from the Blue Ridge Mountains we call home.
The temple Otagi Nenbutsi-Ji nestled in the mountains of Kyoto much like Shoji, is well over a thousand years old. Guarded by its collection of 1200 rakan statues depicting the disciples of the Buddha; this peaceful and meditative retreat in the cultural center of Japan was not always so tranquil.
The original temple built in the Higashiyama area in 770 completely washed away in a flood. It was reestablished in the early years of the Heian period (794-1192), only to fall into dilapidated condition again until the only structures left were the main hall, the Jizo hall and the temple gate.
In an effort to preserve what was left, the temple’s remaining structures were reassembled in their current location in 1922 and for a third time the temple was destroyed. It was not until 1955 that the temple’s fortunes changed when Kocho Nishimura was appointed the new head priest. Not only a priest but an accomplished sculptor, he began the long process of renovating the temple.
Teaching visitors how to sculpt in the Japanese tradition, priest Kocho Nishimura and guests created the 1200 “rakan” statues that fill the temple’s grounds. Peaceful and moss covered these statues spill down the mountain, filling the area with their serene presence.
If you are interested in Japanese folklore, its traditions and history, or are looking for a place to retreat to when exploring Japan then the temple Otagi Nenbutsi-Ji is the perfect destination.