Did you know there’s a road that takes you through lotus gardens of the ancient capital of Nara, conveniently known as the Lotus Road? The lotus is a sacred flower in Buddhism, resembling the Buddhist Pure Land (Sukhavati), and is well suited to the summers in Nara, where Buddhism has flourished for hundreds of years.
Our point of departure is this Lotus Road, which connects three temples in western Nara City. There is no better place to experience the subtle grace of the lotus flowers and get close to the world of the Buddha than at Kikoji Temple. Let’s go!
Nara’s famous lotus flowers are at Kiko-ji, the ancient temple of the famed priest Gyoki
The three temples are Kiko-ji, Toshodai-ji, and Yakushi-ji, all famous for their lotus flowers. Kiko-ji may not be so well-known throughout the country, but within Nara it is known as a must-see spot for lotus flowers. Kiko-ji was established by the Buddhist priest Gyoki, and he used the main building as a reference when assisting in the construction of Todai-ji.
In fact, Kiko-ji could be considered one of the building blocks for essential Nara spots like Todai-ji and its Great Buddha statue. Anyone wanting to call themselves a true fan of Nara’s temples just has to pay a visit to Kiko-ji!
So without further ado, let me introduce some important points pertaining to the Lotus Road.
Hurry -- there are so many rare kinds of lotus flowers to be seen!
The lotus flowers of Kiko-ji were given as a gift from the head priest of Todai-ji. It is said that as the flowers have grown, the number of species has gradually increased, and the grounds now have over 100 different species of lotus. When in full bloom they’re a true masterpiece! It’s really quite rare to be able to enjoy so many species at just one temple.
Be sure to see the rare American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) (pictured). With its peculiar cream yellow petals, it is said to be extremely difficult to cultivate. It’s interesting to see an American flower in Nara, a place where the scenery of ancient Japan also still remains. Have a look for yourself and see which lotus attracts you the most!
＊Be advised that blooming times vary depending on the species.
[Best viewing time] end of June - beginning of August For more details on blooming times, please call: TEL 0742-45-4630
The early bird gets the worm!
Lotus flowers bloom in the morning, with the petals closing up at night, so you have to make sure to rise bright and early to fully enjoy the Lotus Road. In the summer the Nara Basin is extremely humid, so an early morning stroll or bike ride along the Lotus Road is a perfect way to start your day. The lotus blooming in the crisp morning air is truly a thing of beauty.
For those of you who want to see the best lotus blossoms, aim for the weekends in July. Kiko-ji usually opens at 9:00AM, but on Saturdays and Sundays in July it opens at 7:00AM so you can take in the lotus blossoms at their peak.
The pond at Benten-do Hall also has water lilies that open in the early morning, so the early bird really does get the worm at Kiko-ji! Information:
[ACCESS] - Kintetsu Rail - 10 minute walk from Amagatsuji Station - Kintetsu Rail - 20 minute walk from Yamato-Saidaiji Station’s South Exit ※ Nako Rent-a-Cycle is located near Yamato-Saidaiji Station’s South Exit. Open from 9:00AM - 7:00PM (from 8:00 on weekends and holidays in July and August).
- from Osaka The temple is located next to the Minami-Hanna Expressway, so if you plan to come early in the morning, driving is the most convenient. Parking is available.
[HOURS] Open from 9:00AM - 4:30PM (doors open until 4:00PM) (Open Saturdays and Sundays in July from 7:00AM)
Into the Lotus Garden!
Of the three temples that make up the Lotus Road, Kiko-ji is actually the temple that lets you get the closest to the lotus flowers. All of their flowers are potted, and since there are no fences or ropes, you’re able to walk right through the lotus garden! The petals are quite large, and seeing small children walk through the garden is like seeing them wrapped up in the arms of the Buddha. As you’re enveloped in the sweet fragrance of the flowers, looking up at the main hall and the southern gate is like seeing the Pure Land spreading out before your eyes.
Kiko-ji is also the place to go for those of you want to get up-close photos of the lotus flowers. ※Be advised that tripods (as well as monopods) are not allowed in the temple. Please consider the other visitors around you as you take pictures.
There’s one more thing I’d like to introduce, and I’ve saved the best for last. Within the grounds there are 47 stone Buddha statues that were constructed during the Edo Period. Seeing them together with the lotus flowers is truly a sight to behold. The combination also makes for great photos, so I really hope you’ll be able take in the beautiful scenery on a peaceful quiet morning.
The Lotus Road could also be thought of as ‘Gyoki’s Road’
Having enjoyed the beautiful lotus flowers at Kiko-ji, let’s continue on and see another side of the lotus at Toshodai-ji and Yakushi-ji. And actually, these two other temples are also connected to the aforementioned priest Gyoki. The Gyoki bodhisattva statue currently enshrined at Kiko-ji is actually a reproduction of the one at Toshodai-ji. Kiko-ji also has a special relationship with Yakushiji, where Gyoki received training. So these three temples are bound not just by the lotus flowers, but also by Gyoki!
Kiko-ji’s main idol is a statue of Ugajin, the god of harvest and fertility (usually depicted as a snake with a human head). It is usually on display for just three days in July every year, but in 2014 there will be a special display from June 25th through August 25th. It’s a rare chance to see this gorgeous statue along wit the lotus flowers.
Immerse yourself in the world of the Buddha at Kiko-ji, the beautiful temple whose lotus flowers add so much color to summers in the ancient capital of Nara. Together with the Lotus Road, these temples will add a true depth to flavor to your Nara visit.
2014 Lotus Road events run from June 20th through August 25th.
*Please remember that blooming times vary from temple to temple
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