Kennin-ji Temple Hojo Mae-niwa Garden

  • AddressKomatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City
  • Style

    Dry landscape garden

  • Outline of garden

    Address : Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City

    Telephone : +81-(0)75-561-6363

    Period of garden construction : Showa period

    Garden style : Dry landscape garden

    Founding year of temple/shrine : 1202

    Site area : About 1,000 m2

    Public openness : Open (Admission fee 600 yen)


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    The Kennin-ji Temple was founded in 1202 by Myoan Eisai (1141-1215), also called "Yosai", who was a monk of the Tendai Shu (Sect) and brought Zen Buddhism and green tea culture from China to Japan. The oldest Zen temple in Kyoto is also known as one of the five great Zen temples of Kyoto (Kyoto Gozan). It was named after the Kennin period (1201-1204) as it was built in 1202, the second year of the said period.


    The Hojo hall (abbot's quarters), designated a National Important Cultural Property, was restored in 1940 following heavy damage sustained by the Muroto typhoon in 1934. At the same time, a dry garden at the south of the Hojo hall was designed and created by KATO Kumakichi, a contemporary gardener in the early Showa period, and given the name Daiou-en.


    Photo-1. Dry garden Daiou-en at the south of the Hojo hall.JPG

    Photo-1. Dry garden Daiou-en at the south of the Hojo hall


    The garden is mostly covered with white sand raked into a big wave pattern that gives the sense of facing a majestic ocean when seen from the edge of the Hojo hall. On the left side of the garden, a group of three large standing rocks creates a strong line extending toward the center of the garden. The unique garden seems to represent Eisai's view of the world, which came from his great experience of undertaking two voyages to China crossing the ocean and overcoming various challenges leading up to the foundation of the Kennin-ji Temple.


    Photo-2. The garden covered with white sand raked into a big wave pattern.JPG

    Photo-2. The garden covered with white sand raked into a big wave pattern


    Photo-3. Three large standing rocks.JPG

    Photo-3. Three large standing rocks


    The raked white sand pattern changes from a rolling sea to a more tranquil and peaceful water surface as you look horizontally across it from left to right. The south-west corner of the garden contains a seven-story stone pagoda that creates a presence through its stone arrangement at the front and a clump of trees at the back.


    Photo-4. Seven-story stone pagoda in a clump of trees.jpg

    Photo-4. Seven-story stone pagoda in a clump of trees


    Photo-5. Western part of white sand raked garden viewed from the inside of the Hojo hall.JPG

    Photo-5. Western part of white sand raked garden viewed from the inside of the Hojo hall


    Photo-6. Different types of ripple pattern.JPG

    Photo-6. Different types of ripple pattern


    In addition to this garden, there are two more small Zen gardens called Chouon-tei, "the garden of the sound of the tide," and ○△□garden, the "circle-triangle-square garden." The former is composed of just a few stones and some maple trees on moss-covered ground, with its three standing stones in the center representing Buddha and two monks. The latter consists of three different-shaped elements that are thought to represent the universe; the round shape of a single tree planting area as water, the triangular shape making up part of the garden as fire, and the square shape of a well as the ground.


    Photo-7. Stone path connecting to Unsho house (charnel) in the northern part of the garden.JPG

    Photo-7. Stone path connecting to Unsho house (charnel) in the northern part of the garden


    Photo-8. Chouon-tei (means

    Photo-8. Chouon-tei (means "the garden of the sound of the tide") surrounded by Shoin rooms


    Photo-9. Chouon-tei as a courtyard in fall.JPG

    Photo-9. Chouon-tei as a courtyard in fall


    Photo-10. ○△□garden

    Photo-10. ○△□garden "circle-triangle-square garden"


    The lines of the roofs and walls of the temple buildings are also important parts of the garden. Moreover, strict maintenance of Zen to welcome visitors can be seen in the shape of the pine tree trunks and branches and the shrubs that surround the stone arrangement, and even in the bulge of moss carpet, as well as the raked sand patterns.



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