Tanukidanisan Fudoin, Badger Valley Mountain Temple, is a place of pilgrimage for me whenever I get to return to Kyoto. Overshadowed by more famous temples and gardens nearby, it feels intimate, very much part of the forest, full of hidden magic places. I am especially fond of the bronze monk that greets you on the long set of stairs, the small waterfall shrine that you find by following the sound of the water, and the veritable tribe of Tanuki-san, the Japanese mythical badger clay figures.
The temple cluster was built in 781 to guard against bad spirits said to come from the north-east, a direction sometimes named a Demon’s Gate. Whatever the original intent—evil spirits, or no—twelve centuries of casting protection have cloaked the ravine thick in blessings. It is ever a place of refuge, quiet joy, and communion with mountain-forest-water magic.