Don’t Overlook Nara’s Jiko-in Temple
Perhaps Nara’s most overlooked temple yet. The temple, a haven for tea ceremony fanatics, is the Zen temple Jiko-in in Yamatokoriyama to the south of Nara City.
Founded by Sekishu Katagiri in 1663 to pay respects to his father who passed away some time before, Jiko-in temple has remained tied to the the tradition of the tea ceremony for hundreds of years. Katagiri was a renowned tea master and extensively wrote about how to perfect the art even further. Surprisingly he also served as governor of Iwami province under shogun Tokugawa Letsuna.
Atmospheric Zen Gardens
The approach to the temple, although somewhat hidden, has the essence of coming to a state of tranquility that both the tea ceremony and Zen have in mind. The paved path leading up to the small yet quite impressive Ibaraki entry gate gives you the feeling of walking deeper into a great forest as you notice the exposed roots of the elevated trees.
However, once you pass through the gate the entire garden is maintained in pristine order as one would expect from a Zen garden. With its many bushes and trees shaped into seemingly perfect forms and the view over the plains below as well as the mountains in the distance, it all make Jiko-in temple feel like a forgotten retreat.
Experience a Tea Ceremony at Jiko-in Temple
As one of the earliest tea ceremony, although the head priest prefers to use the term tea hospitality as ceremony tends to be a quite laden term, the tea at Jiko-in temple has passed through ages of refinement. As you are seated in the main tearoom you will be presented with a pink or white delight served on a piece of paper before the delicious smell of the thick green tea enters the room. It is strongly recommended to eat the delight and sip some tea in turns to enhance the flavors each of them hold.
Noticing the room around you you will notice the minimalist Zen style that you may have encountered elsewhere as well as the direct connection with the natural beauty of the garden before you. After you have finished your tea please take a moment to admire the tea bowl you just drank out since in the spirit of the tea ceremony each item used has a certain degree of art and refinement.
Zen Tranquility at Jiko-in Temple
The inner garden is a sight you surely should not miss, even though you already enjoyed so much beauty. Centered around a plum tree, which happened to be in full blossom at the time I visited Jiko-in temple, the inner garden again beckons a feeling of Zen tranquility. Before leaving you may also come to notice the small side room near the entrance with cushions surrounding a sand-filled former taiko-drum now reused to serve as a place of warmth and comfort.
Jiko-in temple is quite unique in its own way and the combination of two traditions embedded and perfected in Japan over hundreds of years make it an attractive destination throughout the year for those looking for a truly off-the-beaten-path experience. Time to enjoy some delicious green tea!
|Address||865 Koizumicho, Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture 639-1042|
|Access||[map]865 Koizumicho, Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture 639-1042[/map]|
|Opening Hours||9:00 - 17:00|
|Price Range||1000 yen|