Sagano area / Relax at the Small emerald gem & Oasis


Do you know the area called "Sagano"?

Many travelers visit Arashiyama but most of them don't visit Sagano, even its only a bit from it. What a shame.

Arashiyama is always jam-packed with tourists, but Sagano is always full of tranquility. But it doesn't mean its a boring area. It is an area just not known so much.

There are many interesting spots like... full of cute stone images temple, a Garden like an Emerald gem, a snack made by a No1 Tofu manufacturer, and others.

Please check the articles and enjoy the hidden area of Kyoto!

Read in Japanese




Temple full of stone images, Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple Kyoto

Temple full of stone images(かわいらしい石仏であふれるお寺の風景)

Tips to enjoy the Highlights

1. Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple / A very unique temple full of tiny stone images!

Just as you arrive at the center of Arashiyama, you will be surprised to see a lot of tourists.To avoid the crowd I would recommend you to go to the outskirts of Arashiyama.

Take the Kyoto bus from the bus stop, “Arashiyama Tenryu-ji mae” and get off at “Otagi dera mae”. It takes about 15 minutes.

At the entrance of the temple, two Nio guardians are waiting for you! Why don’t you start the sightseeing in Sagano and Arashiyama area from here?

Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple Kyoto

Tiny Stone Images (小さな石仏)

☆Ruin and Restoration

This temple was built in 766 in the Otagi county (in the east area of Kyoto city). It was named “Otagi-dera” after the area (“dera” means temple).But shortly afterward, the Kamo river overflowed and the temple was washed away.

In the 900’s the emperor ordered a monk, Senkan to restore the temple. Senkan always chanted “Nenbutsu” (prayers) to Buddha. This is why it became to be called “Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple”.

Time had passed, and the main hall of the temple, which was built in the Kamakura era (1185~1333) became very old. The temple itself almost fell into ruin. In order to conserve the main hall the temple was relocated to Sagano in 1922. Why to Sagano in the west of Kyoto? The reason is unknown.

Relocation of the Odagi Nenbutsudera temple Sagano Kyoto

Relocation of the temple (お寺の移設)

☆Splendid Revival

In 1955 Koucho Nishimura was appointed to the chief priest at Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple. He was also a sculptor of images of Buddha.

As a sculptor he went all around Japan and at the same time he started to repair this temple. In 1981 he proposed to fill the temple with many stone images praying for the prosperity of the temple. A lot of stone images were sculptured by worshipers who agreed with him.

These mossy stone images may seem to be very old, but they were made only about 30 years ago.

Look at them one by one!. Sculptures such as a mother with her baby, guys drinking together, and a man holding a tennis racket are so unique. All of them make us feel calm.

Drinking Stone images Odagi Nenbutsuji Temple Sagano Kyoto

"Drinking" stone image (酒を飲み交わしている石仏)

Stone image playing tennis Odaginenbutsuji Temple Sagano Kyoto

"Playing tennis" stone image (テニスをしている石仏)

After you enjoyed this temple, lets go down the Atago Kaido to the next spot, “Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple”.

Read in Japanese(1. 愛宕念仏寺 / 小さな石仏がいっぱいのユニークなお寺)


お寺の入口では、二人の仁王像があなたを待っています。 ここから嵯峨野、嵐山観光を始めることをお勧め!


このお寺は、766年に、京都市の東、愛宕郡に建てられ 「愛宕寺」(おたぎでら)と名付けられました。 しかしまもなく鴨川の氾濫で流され、廃寺となってしまいます。




1955年、西村公朝氏が愛宕念仏寺の住職になりました。 彼は仏師でもあり、全国を飛び回る傍ら愛宕念仏寺の整備を始めました。


一つずつよく見ると、赤ちゃんを抱いていたり、お酒を酌み交わしていたり、テニスラケットを持っていたり、とてもユニークです。 見ていると何だか気持ちが穏やかになり、心を和ませてくれます。


2. Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple / What?! Graveyard Sightseeing?

On your way toward the center of Arashiyama from Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple, you meet stone steps. Go up steps watching the beautiful moss on the side, and you will find the entrance to the second Nenbutsuji "Adashino Nenbutsu-ji temple"on the top.

Who could imagine that this area used to be the place for open - air burial?
This temple changed from being a place for open - air burial to a place loved by people.

Adashino Nenbutsuji steps Sagano Kyoto

Stone steps to Adashino Nenbutsuji temple (化野念仏寺への石段)

AdashinoNenbutsuji in Autumn Sagano Kyoto

Adashino Nenbutsuji temple (化野念仏寺)

☆8000 stone Buddhas collection!!

Koubou Daishi ( 774 - 835 ) was a famous Buddhist monk who taught a custom to bury dead bodies 1200 years ago. He gathered and buried remains of the dead left around here.

Hounen ( 1133 - 1212 ) was another famous Buddhist monk. He built a training hall for Buddhist invocation ( nenbutsu ) there. That is why the temple started to be called Nenbutsuji.

Besides the dead bodies buried by Koubou Daishi, people also started to bury dead bodies outside of the temple and put stone Buddhist images as gravestones. But after a long time, most of these graves became unattended.

These graves or gravestones are called “ Muenbotoke ” ,which literally means the deceased ( hotoke or botoke ) without any relatives or friends ( muen ).

In the middle of the Meiji era ( 1868 - 1912 ) , stone Buddhas ( muenbotoke ) scattered here and there in Adashino were collected and placed here in the temple precinct. The number of the images is approximately 8000 !

I wondered how big the place would be when I heard “ 8000 ”, but the gravestones area is actually much smaller than I expected.

It has an almost eerie atmosphere. For me it was a little scary. How would you feel?

We can walk among the gravestones in the precinct. Do not take photos here inside. But it is ok to take from outside.

Gravestones at Adashino Nenbutsudera temple Sagano Kyoto

Gravestones (墓石)

☆Top secret!

Let me tell you a top secret. This is just between us, ok?

I know this must be the scenery that you want to see. Yes! Bamboo Forest!

There is a Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama area. It is extremely crowded by many tourists. But the Bamboo Forest in this temple is very quiet and beautiful. Please keep it top secret!

Bamboo forest at Adashino Nenbutsudera Temple Sagano Kyoto

Bamboo Forest (竹林)

☆Seasons recommended

I am sure you can enjoy the beautiful temple throughout the year.

Especially during autumn, this place is a hidden gem full of beautiful colored leaves. Please visit this place off the beaten path!

Summer is also good. Sento Kuyou ( Thousand Lantern - Festival ) is held on August 23rd and 24th every year. We offer candles to the graves.

On these two days we can experience a very special atmosphere surrounded by a lot of lanterns.

Thousand Lantern Festival at Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple Sagano Kyoto

Thousand Lantern Festival(千灯供養)

Read in Japanese (2. 化野念仏寺 / え?! 墓地観光だって?!)
愛宕念仏寺から嵐山の中心に向かう道を歩いて行くと、右側の小さな山の上に向かう石段に出くわします。 苔の緑が美しいその石段を上がると、二つ目の念仏寺、化野念仏寺がそこに。










このエリアの中に入り、石仏の間を歩くことができるのですが、写真撮影は禁止されています。 エリアの外からの撮影はOKです。



これぞ、あなたが見たかった風景に違いありません。 そう、竹林です! 多くの観光客が訪れる嵐山の竹林エリアはいつも大混雑。 しかし、このお寺の境内で静かで美しい竹林を見ることができるのですよ。 くれぐれも、このことは秘密に・・・




3. Gio-ji Temple / An oasis with a sad love story

☆A small Emerald gem & oasis

Do you know this cosy small “Gioji- temple” located in the Sagano-Arashiyama area?

We don’t know the accurate time when it was built, but it is said that it has been here since the end of the Heian era (794-1185). Extremely old right?

Many tourists who visited the temple put comments on some websites like this. “Gioji-temple is a small oasis and gem!”

Why is that?

Gioji Temple Sagano Kyoto

Gio-ji temple (祇王寺)

Firstly, it could be because the garden is extremely beautiful because of the blanketed moss. The garden shines green just like an Emerald gem!

By the way, do you know why ancient Japanese loved to plant moss in the gardens? That is because the Japanese sense of beauty tends to give high praise to NATURAL BEAUTY.

In most of the Western world, because of their sense of beauty, people liked to “construct” gardens. In many cases, gardens were made by revising the nature, assigning the plants, building a fountain and so on.

Compared to that, Japanese like to use things which were naturally produced. Moss is one of the representative plant which express this culture.

Secondly, here you can surely enjoy the tranquility, retreating from the hustle and bustle of the busy area. Moreover, I have to tell you that you can enjoy this temple whenever you visit. This is one of the best places to find the seasonal best thing in Kyoto.

①Not crowded ②Tranquility ③Fresh air ④Beautiful garden ⑤Compact site…
The combination of these features could make you have a feel like finding a oasis, just a 15 min walk from the center of the Saga-Arashiyama area.

Moss of Gio-ji Sagano Kyoto

Moss of Gio-ji temple (祇王寺)

☆LOVE is PAINFUL in all ages...

There’s a reason why this temple is now called “Gioji-temple”.

Giou(?-1172) is the name of a woman who was a Shirabyoshi (equivalent to the dancing girl in end of the Heian period) who got fabulous reputations at that time.

She was loved by Taira no Kiyomori, the head of the Heike Clan. He was the first samurai given the post of Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state) and got the whole world in his hands.

Gio was so proud and happy to have been loved by Kiyomori.

But !!! 3 years later, her happy and proud days suddenly got shattered.
Kiyomori easily abandoned Giou and ousted her from their sweet home. He traded her for another Shirabyoushi…

At first, she was sooo shocked and considered to commit suicide. But her mother somehow persuaded her to live. Eventually they together renounced the world and decided to stay at this temple.

That is why this temple is called “Giou-ji”.
Hmmm….love is painful in all ages…

Their statues are enshrined in the temple. Please stroll through the small gem and oasis imagining this sad love story.

Gio Gioji Temple Sagano Kyoto


By Yashima Gakutei (Japan, 1786 (?)-1868) - Image:, パブリック・ドメイン, Link

Read in Japanese (3. 祇王寺 / 悲しい恋物語を持つ喧噪の中のオアシス)




ここを訪れた多くの観光客の方が、ウェブでこのようにコメントしています。「祇王寺は宝石のように美しい、小さなオアシスだ!」 どうしてでしょう?















Food & Specialties

1. Abura-age(deep-fried bean curd) / Snack on at the No.1 Tofu Manufacturer

☆No1 Tofu throughout Japan!?

I really recommend travelers to stop by “Sagano-Tofu-Morika” and snack on the “Abura-age” when you visit Sagano.

To tell you the truth, this shop is the most popular & delicious Tofu shop in Kyoto.

Because of the good water, Kyoto got popular for its wonderful tofu and besides that Yudofu(Tofu simmered in stock) also became popular as Kyoto’s speciality food.

So possibly, this place might be the No.1 Tofu manufacturer not only in Kyoto but throughout all Japan.

Eating Aburaage at Morika Sagano Kyoto

Eating abura-age at Morika(森嘉で油揚げを食べる)

☆Morika made Sagano the popular area!

Do you know the 2 popular areas in Kyoto where Yudofu is served? They are the Nanzenji-temple area and the Sagano-Arashiyama area.

As for the Sagano-Arashiyama area, it’s history with Yudofu is not so long. It is said that Yudofu began to be served there in the 1960s.

In 1960s, just after WWⅡ, “Seizan-Soudou” a restaurant inside the site of Tenryuji temple(World heritage temple) started to serve Morika’s Tofu as “Yudofu” for the visitors of the temple.

Soon after, because of it’s wonderful taste, Morika’s Tofu became extremely popular and many restaurants in the Sagano-Arashiyama area started to serve it.

Wow!! It is not that the Sagano area’s Yudofu which made “Morika’s Tofu” popular. It’s the other way around!

☆Morika is really a factory!

OK, let’s go to “Morika” ! But finding the place, you might feel like this.

“What! It just looks like a factory. Can we buy anything here?”

Thankfully, they sell the fresh product at the entrance. You would see people making a line and a woman handing the products.

Of course you can buy the popular Tofu, but can you prepare a meal at your hotel? I guess you want something which you can eat right away.

Morika's entrance Sagano Kyoto

Entrance of Morika(森嘉の入り口)

☆Try Abura-age as a snack

So please try the “Abura-age”. It is deep fried thin tofu and is a very common food for Japanese. Oftenly, we Japanese eat it putting into Miso-soup, Soba and Udon noodles.

But we usually don’t eat it as a should be a rare experience for most of the Japanese too. The reason they serve it as a snack should be that they are completely confident with the taste.

Anyway let’s try! Dropping several drops of Soy-sauce…

Wow! Its Great!

Further more, its much healthier than eating fried potatoes and doesn’t make us so full. Eating Snack Abura-age could make you very happy when you are tired after strolling around Sagano!

Eating Abura-age at Morika Sagano Kyoto

Eating Abura-age at Morika (森嘉の油揚げを食べる)

Read in Japanese (1.油揚げ / 油揚げをスナックに!?日本一の豆腐屋に立ち寄ろう)






京都の2大湯豆腐エリアを知っていますか? それは、ここ「嵯峨野・嵐山エリア」と「南禅寺周辺エリア」の2カ所です。



そして、森嘉の豆腐が美味しいという噂があっと言う間に広がり、嵯峨野の多くの店で出すようになったようです。 なんと!嵯峨野の湯豆腐が森嘉の豆腐を有名にしたんじゃなく、逆だったんです!


では、森嘉に行ってみましょう! あれ?単なる工場ではないか!? ここで何か買えるの?

安心してください。入り口のところで売ってくれます。 入り口のところに列ができていて、工場の女性が何かを手渡しているのが見えるかと思います。

もちろん、有名な豆腐を買っても良いですが、持ち帰ってホテルで料理を作るのは難しいのでは? 観光客としては、すぐに食べられるものが欲しいのではないでしょうか?


そこで、是非スナックとしてすぐに食べてみて欲しいのが「油揚げ」。油揚げとは、薄い豆腐を油で揚げたもので、日本人にはとっても馴染みが深い食べ物。 味噌汁に入れたり、うどんやそばに入れたりして、本当によく食べます。


なにはともあれ食べてみましょう! 醤油を数滴垂らして。。。


しかも、揚げてはいるものの、豆腐なのでフライドポテトと比べてもとってもヘルシー。 お腹もそんなに膨れない。 たくさん歩いて疲れたところで、このスナックを食べると、とても幸せな気分になり、元気になりますよ。




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