These photos were taken at the Kawachi Fuji Garden, about a four hour drive from Tokyo, but there are wisteria festivals all over Japan, including at the Kameido-Tenjin Shrine, where tourists in the Edo period often visited the famous wisteria; the Wake Wisteria Park, in Wake-cho, Okayama, and at Ashikaga Flower Park, which has three massive wisteria trellises that extend 3,280 feet squared. (Time Out Tokyo has a list of additional notable wisteria around the city worth visiting.)
The silence of the rock and gravel garden of Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto.
Kyoto’s most famous garden is one of the simplest yet paradoxically one of the most mysterious gardens in the world. Its history is unclear, but the latest word is that it was probably created on top of another garden that was in the same place after a fire in 1797. So much for the story that this is a masterpiece of Soami, a painter and gardener who died in 1525.
This was the first temple I visited yesterday, and I only happened upon it by chance. It is normally closed to the public, but was open for a special exhibition with two other temples normally closed… good day for seeing lots of temples and gardens!
This temple was built arouind 1520 as the family temple of Saemonno-suke Hatakeyama, Lord of Noto Prefecture. The first priest here was one of the most famous of Daitokuji; Shohkei. This sub-temple is normally closed to the public, but I was lucky to get in during a special exhibition this autumn, and even more lucky that they allow photographs to be taken of the gardens, which are exquisite - so beautifully balanced, and virtually impossible to find in Japanese gardening books. What a treat!
Behind the main hall of Zuiho-in is another garden designed by Mirei Shigemori. It is known as “The Garden of the Cross” because an asymmetrical cross is created by the positions of the larger rocks. You probably wouldn’t see it unless someone pointed it out. Something you definitely wouldn’t know is that the foot of the cross points to a lantern in the small courtyard (seen in a photo below), under which is buried a statue of the Virgin Mary, It was hidden there to remind visitors of the 200 years in which Christianity was banned in Japan.
Zuihou-in is open to the public, so if you ever come to Kyoto and go to Daitokuji Temple complex, you’ll be able to see this garden. It’s a great gravel garden full of energy and beauty. Not the quietest composition, but really powerful. The rocks remind me of the coast of Maine - or the rocky coast of Japan, which is very similar in spots.
I thought the “main garden” would be the largest karasansui (dry landscape) garden, located to the south of the Hojo, but they’re calling the smaller moss garden the main garden. This could be because the bigger gravel garden is in an old style, but is from the 1980’s, following the death of the former garden’s 700-year-old main tree. The “new” garden was commisioned by the current priest, Katsudo, in the Horai-san style, the central rock representing Mt. Horai, and the two rocks in the right corner making up the Crane island. The big moss mound with rocks in the white gravel represents the tortoise island in a white sand sea.
Do you need to know that the rocks and moss are symbols of islands in the sea or that they represent a turtle, crane, or Mount Horai? No, not really. Does Chopin sound better if you can read the notes or play the piano? It might mean more, which is why I’d like to learn more about these gardens, but it isn’t really necessary to enjoy the view or meditate.
Every side of the Hondo (main hall of a Buddhist temple, used for meditation) features a fantastic garden. The Hondo is from 1502, as the moss garden was made soon after.
A little typing error had me confused for a while: If the temple was created in 1502, how could “The main garden was designed by Soami, who was a very popular gardener in Muromachi Period in 13th century.”
But the Muromachi period is 1333-1573, so the error is obviously just the “13th century”…
A snowy postcard image of the gravel courtyard of Oubai-in Zen Temple. This comes quite close to the straight lines of my half green, half raked sand garden at Galeazza. I’d love to have the moss they have here, but our Italian summers and dry climate would never allow such a thing.