Japan has some of the most diverse flora and fauna in all of Asia, home to some amazingly beautiful sights and scenery. Traditionally, nature and the outdoors have always been part of Japanese culture, revolving around respecting nature and all it provides to us humans. Thus it comes as little surprise that Japan has an almost overwhelming amount of parks – national parks, special parks, parks built around temples, parks that preserve nature, parks used to relax and so on.

One of the most tranquil parks to visit and experience outside is the Kokedera Park, which also makes up one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites Japan is home to. Kokedera stands for “Moss Temple” and is quite possibly one of the most unique experiences one can make being surrounded by some of Japan’s finest natural sights.

As the name implies, one of the attractions of the temple is that its surrounding fauna is mainly covered in lusciously green moss, invoking a very peaceful and almost heavy atmosphere – appropriate given the temple’s Buddhist foundation.

Koke-dera (Saiho-ji or “Moss”) Temple, Kyoto : copyright Damien Douxchamps

What should be noted is that, unlike many other temples in Japan, one cannot simply visit the temple like any other. As part of Japan’s World Heritage Sites, one must sort of schedule a visit to the temple in order to gain entry – not impossible by far, but not as simple as just showing up and taking pictures.

Another aspect of the temple that may attract the culturally curious is the fact that it allows its visitors to participate in its religious activities, a feature rarely found in other temples that still operate. These activities include the chanting and calligraphic copying of the Buddhist rites, which are then contributed to the temple as a form of payment. This is normally led by a senior monk and is subsequently followed by a slow stroll through the mossy surroundings using the park’s paths – an experience said to have made very lasting impacts on those that have had the opportunity to visit the temple. The best times to visit the temple are in spring and fall when the green moss provides picturesque contrast to the trees.

Image by damien.douxchamps.net