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Giō-ji Temple 祇王寺

Moss garden, Giō-ji Temple, Kyoto (photo by じゃんもどき - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Giō leaves the court in tears after being rejected by Kiyomori (from illustrations of the Tale of Heike)

Giō-ji is a Shingon temple affiliated to the nearby Daikaku-ji, and similarly sharing a connection with the Imperial court. The temple is just a small thatched building. The main attraction is the moss garden, which display all its glory in the autumn.


The temple started its life as a Buddhist nunnery established by Lady Giō, a discarded concubine of the powerful Heian-era general Taira no Kiyomori (1118-1181). Giō (妓王) and her sister Ginyo (妓女) were two young shirabyōshi girls, i.e. high-class traditional dancers, entertainers and courtesans. Giō had fallen in love with Kiyomori, who had made her his concubine for a while. Kiyomori's affection, however, shifted quite suddenly in favour of Lady Hotoke, another shirabyōshi, whose beauty and skills at dancing exceeded Giō's. Heart-broken and abandoned by Kiyomori, Giō took up the orders to devote her life to Buddha, along with her sister Ginyo and her mother Toji. This court drama was made famous by the classic novel The Tale of the Heike (平家物語 Heike Monogatari).

Opening Hours & Admission

The temple is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is ¥300.

How to get there

Giōji is located in the north-western part of the Arashiyama district, approximately 1 km north-east of JR Saga-Arashiyama Station (17 min from Kyōto Station, ¥230). If you coming from the cluster of temples in northern Kyoto (Kinkaku-ji, Ryōan-ji, Ninna-ji) or from the western side of the city centre (e.g. Nijō Castle) the easiest way is to hop on the Keifuku Arashiyama line until Arashiyama Station, from where it is only a short walk north-west to Tenryū-ji. There are Keifuku stations in Ryōan-ji and Shijō-Ōmiya (halfway between Nijō Castle and Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple). The journey takes 22 min and costs ¥200 from either station.

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