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Daikaku-ji Temple
A door to be unveiled once in 60 years...
Bojutsu Buddhist Ceremony for Unsealing the Heart Sutra & the 1200th Anniversary of the Foundation of Ikebana Saga Goryu School

*All photo courtesy of Daikaku-ji

There are literally thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Kyoto. But this month in Kyoto, there is a definite reason to visit Daikaku-ji Temple for an opportunity which comes only once every 60 years.

Daikaku-ji Temple is nestled in the tranquil Sagano area in the western part of Kyoto City. It was built about 1200 years ago, in the early Heian period (794-1185), as an imperial villa for Emperor Saga. It is the head temple of the Daikakuji School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism whose founder is the highly-respected Buddhist priest named Kobo Daishi. Emperor Saga, whose father Emperor Kanmu transferred the capital to Kyoto in 794, established the basis of Heian culture as a result of his great interest in culture and the arts.

Another important fact about the temple is its classification as a Monzeki which has a close relationship with the imperial family. Monzeki is a special term for a Buddhist temple which retired emperors or members of the imperial family served as its head priests.

Daikaku-ji Temple has been famous as the central training center for transcribing Hannya Shingyo or the Heart Sutra. Being encouraged by Kobo Daishi, Emperor Saga conducted shakyo or transcribing of Buddhist sutras in 818 in order to pray for the nation's peace. The shakyo has been strictly sealed by the imperial order (lit. ''Chokufu'') and stored and locked in the Chokufu Shingyo-den Hall. This shakyo is so special that it is allowed to be opened to the public only once every 60 years, which is this year, 2018.

Knowing this special fact, many followers of the sect across Japan are visiting Daikaku-ji Temple this year and dedicating their shakyo of the Heart Sutra this autumn. Every morning, an offering of prayers and dedication ceremonies for these shakyo are conducted. Visitors can also try shakyo and join this special occasion for a fee.

Daikaku-ji Temple
9:00-17:00 (gate closed at 16:30); Admission 1,000 yen (until Nov. 30 during the Bojutsu Buddhist ceremony period; 500 yen after Nov. 30); www.daikakuji.or.jp *The temple will be closed on some days during the Bojutsu Buddhist Ceremony.

1200 Years since the Foundation of Ikebana Saga Goryu

In the early Heian period, Emperor Saga transcribed the Heart Sutra by hand and sealed it by imperial order. At the same time, the Emperor picked a sprig of a chrysanthemum flower from the Kikuga-shima Island on Osawa Pond which belonged to Daikaku-ji Temple garden, and arranged the flower in his court.

He was deeply moved by the chrysanthemum flower and proclaimed that the flower sprig in the vase represented such a perfection of ''the universe, the earth and human beings.'' He went on to say; ''Those who arrange flowers should remember this as an ideal model for the law of flower arrangement'' and his remark has been respected up until the present day. This is why Daikaku-ji Temple is known as the place where ikebana originated.

This is said to have been the origin of the Ikebana Saga Goryu School. The principle of the school is to pray for the happiness of people based on the heart of Emperor Saga. Arranging the flower with the philosophy of Ikebana Saga Goryu will convey peace and consolation to the people.

Nov. 1-30 Saga-giku Chrysanthemum Flower Exhibition

Saga-giku is a kind of chrysanthemum flower whose sophisticated figure and scent was loved by Emperor Saga. Only grown and found at Daikaku-ji Temple, this unique and secret Saga-giku has symbolized the elegance of the Japanese imperial court since the Heian Period.

The plant is grown as three pieces of stems in a pot with flowers of ''7-5-3'' style: 7 flowers at the bottom (representing the Earth), five at the middle (Human Beings), and three at the top (the Universe). The height of the plant reaches 1.8 to 2 meters which is said to have made it easier for emperors to appreciate the flowers from their high-raised hall. Pretty and colorful Saga-giku flowers adorn the precinct and welcome visitors.