Mimurotoji: A Hydrangea Paradise in Kyoto

Not far away from Japan’s infamous Byodo-in in Uji lies Mimurotoji Temple [三室戸寺], the 10th temple of Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage. However, right around the rainy season, this temple is particularly famous for its luscious hydrangea garden. Mimurotoji’s hydrangea garden is one of the best of its kind in the Kansai region and attracts many people from far and wide.

The History of Mimurotoji Temple

According to temple legend, the temple’s origins date back to the 8th century when Emperor Konin saw an odd golden beam of light in the palace. He sent one of his trusted nobles to find the source of this unusual light. After several days of journeying, the noble discovered the light radiating from a large statue of Kannon Bosatsu in the Uji River. However, when he jumped in to the river to retrieve that statue, it began to get smaller and smaller. By the time he got to the statue it was a fraction of its original size. Much later, the same noble carved a bigger version of the same to mimic the one his originally saw. Eventually, Mimurotoji Temple was created to enshrine those statues.

Unfortunately, Nobunaga burnt the temple completely to the ground in the Sengoku Period. It was only in the 19th century that Mimurotoji got rebuilt. It was also around that same time that they planted the hydrangea garden.

Getting to Mimuroto-ji

The closest station to Mimurotoji is Mimuroto Station off of the Keihan Uji Line. It takes 40 minutes from Osaka and 20 minutes from Kyoto, respectively to get to the temple. Take the Keihan main line to Chushojima Station and there you can change to the Keihan Uji Line. From Mimuroto Station, walk east (towards the mountain) for 15 minutes or so.

Entrance of Mimuroto-ji Temple
Mimurotoji Temple

If you wish to take the JR instead, Uji Station is the closest to Mimurotoji, but it is a 30-minute walk to the temple, which can be pretty tough in the summer when it was hot. Luckily, during hydrangea season, there are several buses to Mimurotoji from Uji station.

Temple Grounds

We went during prime hydrangea season on a Wednesday and there were plenty of people in the temple. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait to get in, but I am sure that during the weekends, there would be long lines.

While Mimurotoji’s garden is quite big, its temple grounds themselves are fairly small.  Once you climb up the stairs, you will see the main building.

The main building, 10th of Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, was built in the early 19th century. As I mentioned in the history section, one small Kannon statues was embedded inside of the large Kannon statue, but the large was burnt down by the fire and the current main deity is the small one that survived the fire. Unfortunately, this Kannon statue is usually not open to the public and are very occasionally disclosed.

Mimuroto-ji temple main temple building framed with lotus leaves

After visiting the main building, you should walk around some as it is quite quaint temple.

Sanjyu no To: the pagoda was moved here from Hyogo Prefecture in the 20th century.
Amida-do: Former site of the grave of Hino no Arinori, the father of the monk Shinran, the founder of Jyodo-shin Buddhism.
Jyuuhachi Shrine: Many of the original temple buildings in Mimurotoji burnt down in the 15-16th centuries, however this shrine did not. It is the guardian shrine of Mimurotoji, built in 15th century, making it the oldest building in the temple grounds.

Something interesting about this temple, are its unusual “lucky” stones.

Statue of Uka no Kami: Touch the tail for luck with money, the mustache for heath, and ears for general fortune.
Rabbit: A local legend in Uji says a rabbit guided a prince to Uji. If you can balance the oblong-shaped stone inside the ball, you will have good health.

Hydrangea Garden

Once you enter the temple, you will see its huge and stunning hydrangea garden. It has about 50 different breeds for a total of 10,000 of hydrangea. It is fair to say this temple is one of the best hydrangea gardens in Kansai region.

Hydrangea gardens of Mimuroto-ji temple in Uji Kyoto

We were surprised to learn that this type of hydrangea is native to Japan.

This year was a bit drier than usual so the hydrangea weren’t quite as full as they usually are. Despite Kanto being in the middle of its rainy season, we’ve yet to see any real rain here in Kansai.

In the middle of hydrangea garden is a little café where you can enjoy hydrangea inspired food!

Hydrangea parfait

Mimurotoji is also famous for azalea in May, and lotus flowers in July. The gardens at Mimurotoji are literally full of flowers throughout the year. If you plan to visit, make sure to allow yourself plenty of time!

Mimurotoji Temple

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