Taizo-in Temple Gardens of Myoshin-ji Temple

  • AddressHanazonomyoshinji-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto City
  • Style

    Hojo garden - Dry landscape garden
    Yoko-en garden - Pond garden

  • Outline of garden

    Address : Hanazonomyoshinji-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto City

    Telephone : +81-(0)75-463-2855

    Period of garden construction : Hojo garden - the end of the 16th century

    : Yoko-en garden - Showa period (1965)

    Garden designer : Hojo garden - KANO Motonobu

    : Yoko-en garden - NAKANE Kinsaku

    Garden style : Hojo garden - Dry landscape garden

    : Yoko-en garden - Pond garden

    Designations and registrations : Hojo garden (National Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty)

    Site area : Hojo garden - About 400 m2

    : Yoko-en garden - About 2,600 m2

    Public openness : Open (Admission fee)


    * * * * * * * * * *


    Taizo-in Temple is a sub-temple of the Rinzai Shu (Sect) Myoshinji-ha (school). It was constructed in 1404 by the third head priest of the Myoshin-ji, Muinsoin. At the beginning, the temple was built outside of the Myoshin-ji Temple but was subsequently moved to the area's interior in the 16th century. The Taizo-in Temple has been home to a precious piece of National Treasure: the Hyonen-zu ink painting that depicts the Zen question of how to catch a catfish with a bottle gourd, drawn by Josetsu, known as the founder of Chinese ink painting in Japan. It is considered a masterpiece of the Muromachi period and is now housed at the Kyoto National Museum.


    Photo-1©. Taizo-in Temple.JPG

    Photo-1©. Taizo-in Temple


    The gardens of the temple area, such as the Myoshin-ji front garden, Myoshin-ji hojo garden, and dry gardens in Reiun-in and Keishun-in (well known for its azaleas and hairy moss) were designated as National Historic Sites and National Places of Scenic Beauty in 1931.


    Taizo-in Temple has two different types of gardens - the Hojo garden built in the end of the 16th century and the Yoko-en garden built in the Showa period (1965).


    The Hojo garden sits at the south and west sides of the Hojo hall (abbot's quarters). Its southern part is covered by a plain carpet of hairy moss. The western part of the Hojo garden, known as "the garden of Motonobu," is said to have been designed by KANO Motonobu (1476-1559), a great painting master of the Kano School. It can only be seen from a corner of the garden for management reasons.


    Photo-2©. The western part of Hojo garden -

    Photo-2©. The western part of Hojo garden - "the garden of Motonobu"


    The Motonobu garden is a dry landscape garden with white gravel, colorful stones, and shrubs. Despite using limited materials, the garden features a picturesque and vivid scenery. The basic idea of the garden is a dry pond made of white gravel with a central stone arrangement island connected by a stone bridge. One of the stones installed in the dry pond is called Funa-ishi (fish stone). The unique colorful stone arrangement consists of yellowish-brown stones from Kyoto, gray Mikageishi gabbro, and blueish stones from Shikoku island. The planted evergreen trees include camellia, Kurogane holly, Japanese blue oak, and Japanese ternstroemia, in addition to shrubs.


    Interestingly, there is a hidden teahouse called "Kakoi no seki" just behind the Hojo hall. It was built in secret by Senzan (the 6th priest of the temple) with his enthusiasm for tea when tea practice was strictly forbidden to Zen practitioners in the Myoshin-ji Temple as it was considered a hindrance to spiritual training. This mysterious teahouse can be visited at special openings.


    The area of the Yoko-en garden used to be a bamboo forest as a background to the Hojo garden. After the bamboo flowered and died at the same time, the Yoko-en garden was newly constructed at the site.


    The design and construction of Yoko-en were carried out under the charge of well-known gardener NAKANE Kinsaku between 1963 and 1965. Yoko-en is a Chisen-kaiyu (a strolling path around a pond) style garden. It begins at a huge weeping cherry tree and two small dry gardens on either side of the tree named "the garden of yang (positive)" and "the garden of yin (negative)." Walking down the small slope next to the washbasin with a Suikinkutsu (a buried earthen jar that makes a sound with drops of water), there is a view of the entire garden from the wisteria pergola at the lowest part of the garden.


    Photo-3©. A huge weeping cherry tree.JPG

    Photo-3©. A huge weeping cherry tree


    Photo-4©.

    Photo-4©. "The garden of yang (positive)"


    Photo-5©.

    Photo-5©. "The garden of yin (negative)"


    The Yoko-en garden contains a stream flowing into a pond from a waterfall stone arrangement that was built with reference from the dry waterfall of the Hojo garden. Stones have been installed and there are satsuki azaleas planted at the bank of the pond. A shortly trimmed tsutsuji azalea carpet extends gently over the slope as far as the planted cherry trees, maple trees, and fragrant olives.


    Photo-6. A stream flowing into a pond from a waterfall stone arrangement.JPG

    Photo-6. A stream flowing into a pond from a waterfall stone arrangement


    Photo-7©. A shortly trimmed tsutsuji azalea carpet with cherry trees and maple trees in fall.JPG

    Photo-7©. A shortly trimmed tsutsuji azalea carpet with cherry trees and maple trees in fall


    Photo-8©. Large natural stones combined with round-shaped satsuki azalea.JPG

    Photo-8©. Large natural stones combined with round-shaped satsuki azalea


    Nakane successfully created a new type of garden, the Yoko-en, with a cheerful and light atmosphere because the Zen gardens before the Edo period had no such character. The Yoko-en is also famous for its weeping cherry flowering in the spring and maple leaf viewing in the fall.




    *©-marked photos provided by Taizo-in Temple




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