Monday, April 28, 2014

Late April at Sanzen-in Gardens

Goten-mon Gate (御殿門) looks like a castle gate with massive stone walls

On a sunny, breezy, and crisp day last week, I set myself free to Sanzen-in in Ohara, Kyoto.  The temple is located between the Ryo-sen River (呂川) on the north and the Ritus-sen River (律川) on the south at the foot of Mount Hiei. The area is said to be the home of  "Gyozan shomyo 魚山声明", the Tendai way of chanting of Buddhist hymns in chorus with special singing tone.

Before starting to explore the precincts, you can purify yourself by washing hands at Tsukubai basin at the corridor of Kyaku-den Building.  Two Tsukubai basins are set side by side.

Shuheki-en Garden in front of Kyaku-den Building is a nice place for a quiet contemplation before moving to the Main Hall.

- A brief explanation of the complicated history of Sanzen-in -

"Deng-daishi Saicho (767-822), the founder of Hiei-zan Enryaku-ji, built a small hall in Todo of Enryaku-ji in the year 788. This is said to be the origin of Sanzen-in.

Sanzen-in became a "monzeki" temple in 1130 when the second son of Emperor Horikawa became the 14th head priest. While a nun called Shin'nyobo-ni founded Jogyozanmai-do (present day Ojogokuraku-in) in Ohara in 1148. This temple was incorporated into Sanzen-in in Tenmon era (1532-1555).

In the mid 12th century, many invocation-chanting-monks lived in Ohara and the monzeki temple set up mandokoro to govern them. This governing body eventually became the present day Sanzen-in. The temple moved in to mandokoro, the present site, in 1871 after changed its site several times. The name was changed to Sanzen-in at that time. Ojogokuraku-in had been separated from Sanzen-in for a while but incorporated into Sanzen-in again when the temple moved in."   

"Monzeki" is a temple of which the head priest has been a member of the imperial family and of the nobility.

往生極楽院 Ojyo-gokuraku-in, Temple of Rebirth in Paradise

Built in 1148 and repaired in large scale in 1616.
It enshrines a statue of Amida with two kneeling attendants, Kannon and Seishi.

Rhododendrons were blooming profusely throughout the precinct.

Yusei-en Garden near the Ojyo-gokuraku-in with cedars, moss, and seasonal flowers

There are six stone O-Jizo-sama peeking out ouf the moss.  Can you spot some of them?  They are called Child Jizo since their figures and poses remind people of innocent children.

Can you spot another one beside a pond?

All the things there including  greenery, trees, rhododendrons, fallen camellias, blue skies , sunlight .... were contained in the water world.  How enchanting!

Tsukubai basin outdoors

The lute sound played by one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune melts into the sound of breeze.

Kitayama cedars are soaring into the sky.

  Cherry blossoms bloom from mid to late April at this temple. 

A few of other seasonal flowers

Thanks to the gardeners, the gardens are always kept clean and beautiful. 

Sunlight flickers playfully down through the leaves to the mossy ground.

This Suzaku-mon Gate used to be the main gate of Ojyo-gokuraku-in which was incorporated into Sanzen-in.  Suzaku-mon Gate is the main gate traditionally built in the center of the south end.  Suzaku, or the Vermilion Bird, was the Guardian of the south.  This gate is not used currently.

Suzaku-mon Gate seen from the inside
Exploring the temple consists of lots of walking, but you wouldn’t care how much you walk as grandeur, beauties, and wonders appear one after another ceaselessly.  It is a good experience for both soul and body.  After leaving the temple, I had my late lunch at this restaurant close to the temple.

The path leading to the temple is as charming as the temple itself. 
To be continued....


  1. Wow, wow !
    This is an amazing post, Ruma!
    What I like most about Japanese architecture is its amalgamation into nature ! This is reflected almost everywhere in your country especially in countryside. We do not feel we are away from nature, we feel we are part of it :)
    Beautiful post :)

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment. I feel very honored if you’ve mistaken me for Ruma, who I respect both for her philosophy and photography.

    2. My apologies, Yoko :)
      Have a wonderful week ahead :)

  2. What beautiful shots of this fascinating location!!! We have to indeed thank the gardeners for taking such good care of the grounds...but then this is a feature of gardeners in Japan! I do believe that you had a great relaxing time on the day you visited and it might have been really warm to have the rhododendrons in bloom. Not yet here, in my community - which is part of Yokohama. But...we had a grand show, this year again, with a great variety of cherry blossoms! It went away too quickly....The trees peonies - the Courtesans of the flowers world - are now showing off their amazing beauty!

  3. The water world photograph is so enchanting it would enhance any wall like a work of art. I agree with the first comment. Nature and structures intertwine seamlessly in this place. I think the wonderful landscapers and gardeners have a big hand in taming this historic wilderness garden.

  4. Lovely places to meditate and admire !
    Have a great week !

  5. Hello Yoko,

    This looks to be a most magical place. Can it really be real, we ask ourselves? It does seem to be a piece of paradise on Earth.

    The gardens are beautifully planted and kept in immaculate order. And, everywhere the colours blend into a serene calm. Nothing jars or appears out of place. One can imagine the whole setting having been like this for decades.

    A wonderful place to visit and reflect.

  6. gosh, so beautiful! the water gardens and blooms are spectacular!

  7. Dear Yoko, Your posts always leave me feeling more calm and contemplative. Such extensive gardens! I love the little Jizo. The bleeding heart was one of my mothers favorites. I always think of her when I see one.

  8. PS. Those Grandchildren are so adorable!

  9. So much beauty and history. Spring looks gorgeous over there!

  10. こんばんは。デュークエイセスの「女ひとり」が聞こえてきそうです。 石楠花が美しいですね。弁財天に弁天池、池に映る花もとても素敵です。
     ケマンソウ(Bleeding heart)、ヤマブキも美しいです。 京都に行った気分になりました。

  11. 行ったことはあるはずですが、初めてのような気がします。一人でゆっくりが似合いそう。でもそれではもったいないような。池の審美的な効果が素晴らしいですね。私も先日室生寺に行ってきましたが、シャクナゲが満開でした。仏隆寺の近くでワラビとタケノコが手に入ったのも、うれしい収穫でした^^

  12. いつもながら写真、文章の構成の妙に惹きつけられます。大原を一度ゆっくり歩きたいねと主人と話していた矢先です。秋もいいかもしれませんね。

  13. Hi Yoko, the images here are simply too awesome for words. My favourite of favourites is the one with the reflective waters in landscape form. It is like a Monet painting. You have a good eye for aesthetics complemented by good photographic techniques.

  14. You are quite right, one wouldn’t mind how far one walked in such beauty.
    However, I probably wouldn’t get very far at all because I would stop everywhere and get lost in admiration os such exquisite splendour.

  15. 大原の自然を、とても美しく撮られていますね. 苔の美しい季節になったんだと気付かされました.子供のお地蔵様かわいいですね.水面に映る景色が、美しいです.
    Have a nice day!

  16. I always leave everything aside when I come here, your posts are my journey to a different world, truly. I love those reflections on the glass windows and the painting the water world recreates in itself. But my absolute favorite are the child Jizos, they are just so sweet and adorable. Thank you for a wonderful walk as always and I wish I hear the Buddhist chants 'Gyozan shomyo' in person someday.

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear Yoko - take care! :)

  17. More beautiful pictures and interesting commentary. When I come to Japan in the autumn I am going to try and get to Nara and the reason is that I have really enjoyed reading your blog and would love to visit this interesting sounding area, and see some of the things you have mentioned.

  18. Yoko, I thought I would try to contact you directly but I don't see a contact on the blog. If you would be willing to talk with me about our proposed visit to Nara perhaps you could go to my blog and follow the contact link so we can exchange email addresses?

  19. °º。✿✿° ·.
    Esses jardins são tão lindos, transmitem tanta paz!!!

    Bom fim de semana!


  20. A very interesting history, very beautiful pictures. I like your blog really good.

  21. Hello Yoko [again]:

    We just wanted to thank you for your comment on our most recent post. As there are over 200, it is necessary for you to click on 'Load More' beneath the comment box to see your comment and or reply to you.

  22. What a wonderful photo series. The flowers are beyond beautiful. I really like the red entrance to the temple, and I can't wait to see what it looks like inside. Thanks for visiting me back. I am following your blog now. Stay in touch!

    Mersad Donko Photography

  23. It IS a complicated history. But interesting nevertheless :)


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