Koke-dera, or officially “Saiho-ji” (Moss Temple) was founded by Buddhist priest Gyoki and redone by Zen Priest and well-known garden designer Muso Kokushi (Soseki) in 1339. Although it is known today as the Moss Temple because of its 120 species of moss, it was not planned this way. Through centuries of wars, destruction, floods, reconstruction and neglect, nature finally claimed Saiho-ji, and the mosses slowly took hold, converting what was left of the garden into a beauty of nature. The garden is more commonly known as the Moss Temple and is home to 120 types of moss.
Tenryu-ji (Dragon of the Sky Temple) was established in 1339 by Ashikaga Takauji on the site once held as a residence for Emperor Gosaga and Kameyama. Prior to that, Japan’s first Zen temple, Danrin-ji, was founded by Empress Tachibana no Kachiko. The beautiful Sogenchi stroll garden was created in 1345 by Muso Soseki, the temple founder, and is designated a Special Historic Site and a Special Historic Scenic Area. Mount Arashiyama can be seen in the background. It is formally known as Shiseizen-ji, the head temple of the Tenryū branch of Rinzai Zen Sect.
Koko-en was constructed in 1992 at the foot of Himeji castle where Samurai residences stood during the Edo period. Its construction commemorated the 100th anniversary of Himeji City. It is named after the Koko do provincial school, founded by Lord Sakai in 1692.
There are 9 individual gardens, including Oyashiki-no-niwa (‘Feudal Lord’s Residence Garden’) and Cha-no-niwa (Tea Garden) with its Sukiya-style tea house, Soju-an. There is also Summer Tree Garden (a garden of deciduous trees), Hill & Pond garden, a garden of flowers popular during the Edo Period, and Garden of the Stream.