A few months ago I had a posting about Muro-ji but never gave a moment to talk about what I thought was in some ways even more impressive than the temple itself, despite the 10-year restoration it recently went through to recover from damage by the huge typhoon back in 1998. Of particular interest to me was the caretaker’s house at Muro-ji, a grand and beautiful example of an Edo-Period homestead in the country.
Of course Muro-ji and the nearby Hase-dera are among the most impressive natural treasures in the area, and Hase-dera ranks among the UNESCO list of World Heritages in Japan. Nevertheless this house struck me as particularly interesting because of the construction materials: Plum wood and maple hashira and hirakaku as well as whole tokobashira from hinoki. Now in Nara these materials have not been available for use as home construction since around 1895, and it was therefore very refreshing to see an old house so beautifully maintained and restored, as though it were the heart of temple site in itself. Because of their deep purple color and shiny well-finished texture, the plum wood beams create a very unique experience inside the house. In addition, the gardens all around were masterfully cared for and most of the stones present were laid there at least 150 years ago, probably more.
With all the wonderful things to see down there, including some pretty amazing, centuries-old woodland hikes, it’s a wonder more people don’t visit there. Kintetsu has made it easier to get there from as far away as Himeji. Basically anyone living in Hyogo or Kyoto will have no trouble getting there by train, but to really have the freedom to move around, rent a car and drive defensively!!
Martin Werner Zander, Partner in the Smith’s School of English
Owner, Smith’s School Kotoen