Tiny Gio-ji Temple is often overlooked by the throngs of sightseers in Arashiyama but what it may lack in size, it more than makes up for in charm and it’s one of our favourite temples in the area, not least for its fascinating history.
The temple was named after Gio, a dancer from long ago who fell in love with the Heike Clan’s powerful leader Taira-no-Kiyomori. When he ended their relationship, Gio retreated to this temple to spend the rest of her life as a Buddhist priestess, along with her sister, mother, and another of Kiyomori’s spurned lovers. Wooden statues of the women and Kiyomori are enshrined in the main hall.
Set among dense trees, the temple has a lovely moss garden and the whole place is very photogenic. The temple grounds are especially beautiful in autumn, when the leaves change colour and stand in sharp contrast to the green moss.