Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto has a spring illumination event at its rock garden

You can see the temple’s weeping cherry blossom tree illuminated in stunning blue from now until May 12

Youka Nagase
Written by
Youka Nagase

Kyoto may be a year-round destination, but its many temples are at their most beautiful during autumn and spring. Not too far from the famed Kiyomizu-dera is Buddhist temple Kodaiji, which boasts two spectacular Zen gardens, and a memorial hall decked out in lacquerwork with intricate designs. 

Every year, the temple hosts seasonal light festivals that see it open into the night for visitors to explore the illuminated grounds. In spring, the star of the show is the impressive weeping cherry blossom tree inside the temple’s Hashin-tei rock garden.

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From March 12 to May 5, the rock garden will be lit with luminescent blue lights from 5pm to 9.30pm (last entry) every day. Each year the garden is decorated differently and this year’s show has been supervised by executive gardener Yasuo Kitayama. The theme is kame wa asobu bandai no mirai, literally meaning ‘playing turtles eternal future’ in Japanese.

It’s a Zen saying which refers to turtles leisurely swimming in a pond even after living for hundreds of years. The perfectly raked rock garden has been made to look like a pond, and the theme embodies the temple’s hope that we’ll all get to live a long life like the proverbial turtles. 

The spring illumination will also highlight intricate new paintings on the temple’s fusuma sliding doors by female artists Izumi Yamagishi, Seiko Takeichi and Kazuyo Yasoyama. The art display is part of a series of works by female artists that the temple will be hosting intermittently until 2024, which marks 400 years since the death of Nene. She was the founder of Kodaiji and the wife of famous Japanese ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi. 

Admission to see the illumination and art exhibit is ¥600 for adults and free for elementary school students and younger. If you come between March 27 and April 3, you’ll also be able to witness a kitsune no yomeiri (literally meaning ‘a fox’s wedding’ in Japanese), which is a traditional Japanese bridal procession held every day at 6pm and 7pm just outside the temple on Nene no Michi Street. 

For more information, see Kodaiji Temple's website.

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