A temple famous for its garden offerings, Mimuroto-ji is a nature lover’s delight in the south-eastern city of Uji with a 1,200 year history. No matter the season something always seems to be in full bloom at this hillside temple, with cherry blossoms in the spring, azaleas, hydrangeas, and lotus in the summer, and colorful fall leaves in autumn. After entering the temple’s vermilion gate a short stroll takes you up to the offices, main hall, bell tower, and pagoda. Depending on the time of year the appearance can be remarkably different at Mimuroto-ji, especially in the summer season when potted lotuses bloom just in front of the main hall. After checking out the building and saying a prayer you can wander over to the pagoda or the viewing platform that offers a lovely view of the expansive gardens. The gardens are the true attraction, with row upon row of azalea bushes, hundreds of hydrangeas in different colors and shapes, and a quaint little café and gazebo to rest and enjoy your surroundings in.
No matter the season something always seems to be in full bloom at this hillside temple, with cherry blossoms in the spring, azaleas, hydrangeas, and lotus in the summer, and colorful fall leaves in autumn.
Composed of thousands of plants representing over fifty species of hydrangea, the garden at Mimuroto-ji sprawls from the vermilion entrance gate of the temple up towards the stairs to the main hall with paths meandering through the colorful blooms. Best in June and July, the gardens are breathtakingly gorgeous and covered with flowers ranging from pale blue to vibrant fuchsia. Tall cedars spaced intermittently through the garden add to the mountainous scenery, and against the neighboring foothills are large swathes of azalea lovely in May. The garden also has a small teahouse café within for those who would like to enjoy the view with some sweets or green tea.
Rebuilt in 1805, the main hall, bell tower, and a three tiered pagoda can be accessed by a set of stairs. The main hall has a potted lotus garden arranged in front of it that blooms in July and makes the building appear like a Buddhist paradise. Hidden from view within the hall is the sacred Thousand Armed Kannon statue, with a statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha on public display. The bell beside the Amida Hall can be rung by visitors who place an offering in the box, and a three tiered pagoda makes a lovely sight surrounded by lush green or bright autumn foliage.
Local Deity: Ugajin
Upon climbing the stairs towards the main hall, the first thing visitors will be greeted by is a statue of the local Shinto deity, Ugajin. Depicted as a being with the face of a kindly old man and the body of a snake, Ugajin is deified at the temple in thanks for the land being used. It’s said that if you rub his head it will lead to a long and healthy life, and by rubbing the tip of his tail he will grant you monetary fortune- but one is cautioned to only rub one, as asking for both would be considered greedy.
Local legend tells the story of a peasant named Tomiemon, who together with his wife saved money to buy a bull to farm with. Though the bull they ended up with was weak and unable to do work, the two grew fond of the animal and kept him anyway, and would take him with them to Mimuroto-ji when they prayed. A kindly monk placed a Kannon amulet on the cow’s horn, and soon after it coughed up a large ball that became known as the “bull’s jewel” and became healthy and strong. A man named Gonbe challenged Tomiemon to a bull fight when he heard of this, and after dreaming that his bull would be alright, Tomiemon finally accepted and won the challenge, becoming a rich man. Tomiemon had a statue of the bull made and the “jewel” placed inside, then enshrined at Mimuroto-ji in thanks, and today there is a modern version of this statue outside the main hall. Visitors can place their hands in the bull’s mouth and roll the jewel about in their hand, which is said to bring good luck.
Containing 20,000 tsutsuji azalea and 1,000 shakunage rhododendron plants, this garden at Mimuroto-ji is spread out over a gentle hill next to the equally famous hydrangea garden. Blooming in early May, this famous flower viewing spot is an explosion of colors in the form of pink, purple, and white flowers with an occasional splash of red to welcome the spring after the end of cherry blossom season. Walking paths actually allow visitors to wander through the layers of flowers all the way to the top of the hill, so the azaleas can be enjoyed from a variety of photogenic angles.
Established by Emperor Kōnin in 770, Mimuroto-ji enjoyed imperial patronage throughout the Heian Period, when it served as a popular place removed from the capital where nobility could enjoy themselves. Emperor Kōnin had seen a vision in which a golden light could be seen at the foot of a waterfall north of the Uji River, and when he had it investigated his subordinate had a vision of the Thousand Armed Kannon, who turned into a golden statue. First installed at a palace in Uji, the palace was later converted into the Mimuroto-ji Temple. Until 805 the principal image of Kannon was hidden from the public, when Emperor Kanmu declared it be shown once every 33 years.
Burned down in a fire in 1460, the temple was rebuilt only to be embroiled in political turmoil in the late 16th century. During the civil war between nominal shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki and the warlord Oda Nobunaga, the monks of Mimuroto-ji supported Yoshiaki, and their fortunes suffered when he was driven from the capital and the temple destroyed. The temple properties and treasures were confiscated until Toyotomi Hideyoshi ascended to power after Nobunaga and restored the temple.
Legend says that at that time one Lord Mashita Nagamori (1545 – 1615) was in possession of the remains of the temple bell, but did not return it. After falling seriously ill, Nagamori finally returned the remains with an offering, and subsequently made a quick recovery.
Unfortunately another large fire destroyed the majority of the temple complex, and most of its current structures date to the rebuilding in 1805.
|Hydrangea Garden Night Illumination (Weekends Only)|
|Lotus Sake Event (Hasuzake wo Tanoshimu-kai) (First 300 people from 9am)|
|Special Showing of Kannon’s Feet (Weekends & Holidays Only)|
- General Admission: ¥500
- Primary School: ¥300
- General Admission: 08:30 – 16:30 (April – October), 08:30 – 16:00 (November – March) (last admission 30 minutes prior to closing)
- Closed: December 29th, 30th, and 31st