Ota Shrine & Shoden-ji

The period between late May and June is the season of the iris in northern Kyoto, and no place has a better viewing area for the rich purple flowers than Ota Shrine, located near Kamigamo Shrine on the eastern side of the Kamo River. With the shrine's grounds is a large valley of irises, which are currently in full bloom. Dragonflies hover overhead, and in the creek bed, frog eggs are plentiful. It is a peaceful little shrine, mostly shady due to its placement in a forest, with clean air and moderate foot traffic. Of course, the iris pond is really all the temple has to offer, but it is worth a visit, as the irises are quite gorgeous. The Japanese irises in this pond have been admired for nearly a millenia, as writer deep kyoto penned.

If you're interested in visiting the shrine, here is a map:

Nearby is another famous temple- Shoden-ji. Shoden-ji is located about twenty minutes east of Ota Shrine by bicycle. Shoden-ji has a peculiar history. It's original attraction was its Karesansui garden, which is considered a masterpiece, but these days, at least from foreigners' perspective, its Chitenjo, or bloody ceiling is the true reason to go. The Town Mouse and I heard of the temple from local magazine Kansai Scene in their "Haunted Places" editorial. Going there, I was expecting to find the temple in poor repair, or at the very least, to feel a bit of a spookiness or dread. I actually felt neither.

The ceiling of the temple is made from some recovered floorboards of Fushimi Palace, where a troop of soldiers committed harakiri suicide in 1600. The floorboards were re-purposed into the veranda's ceiling as a way to offer the restless souls repose. The temple is actually quite stunning and serene. While not overtly grand or unique, the sense of quiet you can get up on the mountain while staring out over the garden is fantastic. While we were there, they also had a large "Death of Buddha" scroll on display. At first glance, the scroll simply looked unfinished, but upon closer inspection, I realized that it was quite finished: the entirety of the scroll had been drawn in kanji.... lines and lines of sutras. It was gorgeous. I would have to say that if you're in the area, it's definitely worth a visit. Here is a map to Shoden-ji:

More pictures from the day are viewable at Peach Press's Facebook Page: Ota Shrine and Shodenji Photos