Kodai-ji Temple Garden
- AddressShimokawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City
Stroll-style pond garden
Outline of garden
Address : Shimokawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City
Telephone : +81-(0)75-561-9966
Period of garden construction : The early Edo period
Garden style : Stroll-style pond garden
Founding year of temple/shrine : 1606
Designations and registrations : National Important Cultural Properties (Kaisando hall, Otama-ya sanctuary, Kasa-tei tea house, Shigure-tei tea house, Omote-mon gate, Kangetsu-dai(moon-viewing pavilion))
Public openness : Open (Admission fee 600 yen)
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Kodai-ji Temple, famous for its Japanese bush clover, was founded in 1606 in memory of TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi (1536-1598) by his wife Kita-no-Mandokoro (1548-1624), who was also known as Nene.
The Buddha hall, Hojo hall (abbot's quarters), and other buildings were moved to and then reconstructed in Kodai-ji Temple from Fushimi-jo Castle, where Hideyoshi and Nene had once lived. However, the buildings were unfortunately struck by two great fires. The current Kuri (kitchen hall) and main hall were then restored in the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods, respectively. There is a garden in front of the main hall where the white sand is precisely raked to form geometric patterns representing the surface of water. In spring you can enjoy the tranquil weeping cherry blossom while sitting in the main hall.
Photo-1. White sand-raked garden in front of the Hojo hall
Photo-2. Dry stream flowing between moss mounds representing green hills and shore lines
Photo-3. Standing stone arrangement representing a Buddhist Triad
The construction of the Kaisan-do hall (hall of the founder) and Otama-ya sanctuary (housing wooden statues of Hideyoshi and Nene) dates back to the beginning of the 17th century in the Edo period. Evidence of a high level of artistic achievement can be found from the ceiling paintings in Kaisan-do and the lacquer works with gilded patterns called "Kodai-ji Makie" in Otama-ya. In front of Kaisan-do, a pond garden that was gradually created in the 17th century is in its original state, despite having endured wars and fires over the centuries. The garden was nationally designated a Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty in 1927.
Photo-4. Kaisan-do hall (hall of the founder) and pond garden
A roof-covered bridge corridor passes over the pond between the Shoin hall and Kaisan-do hall. At its center is a moon-viewing pavilion, Kangetsu-dai, where it is said that Nene used to remember her husband while watching the moon. From the corridor, you can see a tortoise-like and a crane-like island composed of rocks standing in the eastern pond of Engetsu-chi.
Photo-5. Roof-covered bridge corridor with Kangetsu-dai (moon-viewing pavilion) at its center
Photo-6. Roof-covered bridge corridor over Engetsu-chi pond garden
On the other side of Kaisan-do, there is another bridge corridor, called Garyo-ro, that leads to the western pond of Garyo-chi. The shape of the roof makes it looks as though a dragon is lying on the pond. The Higashiyama mountain range behind the garden is another important landscape element in forming the scenery of the garden. This principle of landscape design is called "borrowed scenery" and works by widely expanding and enriching the view by integrating an exterior landscape into the scenery of the garden.
Photo-7. Garyo-ro bridge corridor (a dragon lying on the pond) connecting Kaisan-do and Otama-ya
Another reason for visiting the garden is to drink matcha green tea at the Ungo-an teahouse. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful mind while looking out at the lush garden that features a carpet of moss, maple trees, and small streams. Moreover, the garden is a splendid example of how to integrate historical elements such as the ponds and the Garyo-ro bridge corridor with traditional garden techniques such as a borrowed landscape.
Photo-8. Greenery garden viewed from the Ungo-an teahouse
The original scenery from the early Edo period has been revived through the efforts of KITAYAMA Yasuo, a contemporary gardener, who arranged stones and plants between the buildings so that the garden would become one dynamic and integrated scenery while still keeping the important cultural properties and buildings.
Photo-9. Iho-an tea house, with a large round window, beside a small dry stream
Photo-10. Kasa-tei tea house viewed from the highest point of the garden