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April 20, 2016 - Far from the Madding Kyoto Crowds - Part 2
On my last full day in Kyoto I ventured to the Imperial Palace gardens, which were nearby. Just inside the south gate there is a small pond garden with tea house called Shusui-tei, which I enjoyed without any disturbance of other visitors. The main path through the grounds follows a small stream under the trees diverted from the Keage canal to Lake Biwa. The path was lined with flowering azaleas and other shrubs. Some late flowering cherries were in full bloom.
A little further north is a major temple complex of Shokoku-ji, one of seven headquarter temples of the Rinsai sect, which administers both the Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji. The sect flourished under the Ashikaga shogunate, the temple was destroyed in the Onin wars and rebuilt by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the 16th century but destroyed again in the 18th century. The complex was partially rebuilt but has no Buddha hall or grand Sanmon gate. The main hall has a dragon ceiling painting in which, like a number of other temples, the dragon appears to follow you around the hall with itfs eyes. The complex has a large lotus pond, a maple lined entrance garden, a number of dry landscaped areas and a ravine garden.
From the back entrance of Shokoku-ji it is a short walk to Myoken-ji, which although established in the Ashikaga era was relocated several times during itfs history. The temple has a few buildings but more notable gardens with a cherry tree lined approach, kare sansui gardens including a courtyard with bamboos.
Leaving the temple and walking further west is Myoren-ji temple, a small but attractive temple with few buildings including student accommodation. The rock garden is attributed to the designer of Katsura Rikyu and is rather impressive although the shakkei is somewhat unfortunate.
I took the subway south to Yamashina to visit Bishamon-do temple. It is one of a five Tendai sect Monzeki temples in Kyoto, where those of royal lineage lived and was founded in the 8th century. The temple is noted for itfs weeping cherries and autumn colour. The main temple is lavishly decorated and includes carved animals including similar elephant carvings to Yogen-in and a traditional dragon painted ceiling. There is a small early Edo period shinji-ike pond garden called Bansui-en with turtle and plover rock arrangements. The wisteria was just coming into bloom.
My final destination for the day was back in the Higashiyama hills at Honen-in. This is one of Chris Rowthornefs (author of Lonely Planet Japan guides) favourites to be found just off the Path of Philosophy. It is set amidst the trees that clad the Higashiyama hills and has a dramatic entrance gate, usually moss clad but had been recently rethatched, before descending the steps between two raised sand hills said to purify the visitor, before crossing a granite bridge. There are few buildings and these are only open during blossom time and autumn. It has a rather nice pond garden with camellias, which can only be viewed when the temple is open.
Having now visited most of Kyotofs 17 World Heritage sites and many others it is refreshing to find other beautiful temples and gardens further off the beaten track. Of these Sennyu-ji and Toji-in temples are among my favourites.
List of Posts:
2017/07/25 - Japan's tectonic landscape reflected in the gardens
2017/07/15 - Flora of Japan
2016/04/27 - Time in Asakusa
2016/04/25 - Kakunodate
2016/04/23 - A Thousand Cranes
2016/04/22 - Castle in the Clouds
2016/04/21 - The beauty of Koraku-en
2016/04/20 - Far from the Madding Kyoto Crowds - Part 1
2016/04/20 - Far from the Madding Kyoto Crowds - Part 2
2016/04/18 - A Day in the Mountains
2016/04/17 - Delights of Hikone
2016/04/16 - Nara Revisited
2015/01/03 - Kamakura temples and gardens
2015/01/01 - Takayama Temple Trail
2014/12/29 - Kurama - Kibune hiking trail
2014/11/10 - A visit to Himeji
2014/11/05 - Shigemori Mirei - The Rebel in the Garden
2014/11/04 - Arashiyama and nearby sights
2014/11/03 - The less visited sites of Nara
2014/11/03 - The gems of Matsue
2014/10/31 - Agon-shu Monastery
2014/10/30 - In the footsteps of the Shogun
2014/10/30 - Tale of the Genji