Affectionately called 嵯峨釈迦堂さまSaga-Shakadou-sama by the locals, 清凉寺Seiryo-ji Temple is a temple in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto founded in 989 by Seisai in honor of his teacher, Chounen, who had hoped to model the temple after the Seiryo-ji in China. Chounen also brought back a sandalwood statue of 釈迦如来Shaka Nyorai, also known as “the living Buddha” due to silk-made organs and other items found in it, from China; it is a National Treasure of Japan. Although it started off in the 華厳宗Kegon-shuu (Kegon sect), it is now part of the Joudo sect. The temple is the base of local performing arts such as 嵯峨狂言Saga-kyougen and 融通念仏yuudzuu nenbutsu and holds one of the three fire festivals in Kyoto.
Starting in 2006 for about three years, I’d often spend a part of my weekend in Arashiyama. One of my favorite things to do was stroll in the village area around the foot of Atago Mountain and Seiryo-ji Temple was always at the beginning of that route; however, most of the time, especially because the gate would be closed when I was in the area, I didn’t go in.
In December 2007, I remember being shocked to see the front gate crashed into and under construction; apparently a drunk driver had crashed into the front gate while trying to leave after having entered through the back entrance. I hope that he pays fully for what he’s done to a gate dating back to 1783. Luckily it was repairable and now back to normal.
In late March 2008 when the weather was beautiful and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, I went with Shane, the younger brother of one of my good high school friends, and his two fellow Gunma JETs at the time, Diana and Joyce, when they came to Kyoto for two days. After taking in 渡月橋Tougetsukyou, the commercial area and the bamboo forest, we ended up at Seiryo-ji Temple. We didn’t have much time before going to 金閣寺Kinkaku-ji Temple, so we took a brief look around.
in front of the 釈迦堂shakadou where the statue of Buddha is
cherry blossoms with the 多宝塔tahoto (two-storied pagoda) in the back
cherry blossoms up close