Friday, December 19, 2014

SJG Field Trip to Kyoto Fall 2014 What we saw and why we saw it... Part 2 of 3

by Dewey Webster

5.) EDO ERA (1603 – 1867): 

 EDO ERA (1603 – 1867) RENGE-JI

• EDO ERA (1603 – 1867) RENGE-JI
With civil peace and prosperity, which characterized the Edo Era, some gardens quietly retreated into the woodwork. This one, built up against a cliff, was known for its borrowed view of the trees up said cliff. However the trees immediately around the pond have grown so as to block much of that view. It makes the feeling of enclosure and intimacy very strong.

EDO ERA (1603 – 1867) RENGE-JI

• EDO ERA (1603 – 1867) RENGE-JI
Now this is something one does not see everyday…a Chinese stele in a Japanese garden. It is quite authentic: a slab of stone incised with some important story, standing on a large tortoise (turtles!!) with an unusual cap-stone (in China the important ones are inside an open-air enclosure - think azumaya).

The founder of this temple was a priest at Manshu-in, in Kyoto, a temple with a long Chinese connection. His master there was from China, and when the founder died, the Chinese priest had this stele made in China and erected here. As is often the case, the inscription is a recounting of his disciple’s life and deeds.

EDO ERA (1603 – 1867) SHŌDEN-JI

• EDO ERA (1603 – 1867) SHŌDEN-JI
Here is a borrowed view that has not been occluded! Built to view Mt. Hiei on the horizon, the entire city of Kyoto, which spreads from here to it, is hidden by the trees, which the temple owns. It is also protected from high rises being built on this side, since the temple owns the land beyond and has put a golf course on it.

EDO ERA (1603 – 1867) SHŌDEN-JI

• EDO ERA (1603 – 1867) SHŌDEN-JI
Temples are often laid out with the Main Gate directly accessing the garden, which fronts the main building. But only the most VIP of VIP’s gets to use it (we normal folk come in the side door). However the walk from it, to the main building is carefully maintained and becomes an element of the overall garden design.


OK, so this is Edo too, but since Katsura and our garden have a close relationship I am including it as well. Certainly the suhama with the Misaki Lantern is familiar to us all. Now look beyond: island with pine tree – stone bridge – another island (missing it’s pine… recently died) and off camera to the right, another bridge to the shore. Seem familiar? Our bridge is wood, and we have only one island, but hey, the Imperial Family had more resources. This is a representation of Amanohashidate, a famous crescent of sand covered with pine trees on the Japan Sea Coast. Beyond this is a teahouse. And as you know our garden design called for a building beyond our bridges and island.

EDO ERA (1603 – 1867)

Now I doubt our designers had in mind something as grand as the Old Villa at Katsura. Often held up as THE iconic building of traditional Japanese architecture, is has a moon viewing platform, just going off screen to the right, facing the center portion of the garden.

And the stepping-stones indicate that this is not a VIEW garden, but it is a STROLL garden (tho the Imperials may have boated about more than traipsed across stepping stones).


Here is STROLL on a grand scale. Sure, they probably boated about too, but to get to this vantage point there had to be some climbing involved. And engineering too...a pond on the side of hill? They do it all the time for their rice fields by building a dam across the hill…the straight line on the opposite shore is the top of the dam. It is also SHAKKEI (“borrowed landscape”) on a grand scale as well… incorporating all the hills in north Kyoto and beyond. Would a retired Emperor settle for less?


Needless to say seeing these “Imperials” is pretty popular, but the guided groups are limited to 40, so reservations are made, and groups fill, months in advance. However, knowing that for many foreign tourists that is difficult to do, it is usually possible to get a spot if not the same day one applies, within a few days, so all of us were able to do so. Also for our benefit, they loan audio guides in English, keyed to the number at each stop…6 in this case…so when not too busy taking photos one can hear about the location.


Next (last) post on SJG field trip to Japan: MODERN ERA...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SJG Field Trip to Kyoto Fall 2014 What we saw and why we saw it... Part 1 of 3

by Dewey Webster

1.) HEIAN ERA (784 -1185):

 HEIAN ERA (784 -1185):  SHINSEN-EN

• HEIAN ERA (784 -1185) SHINSEN-EN
A remnant of the first Imperial Garden created when Kyoto was founded by Emperor Kammu. The group stands under the Torii gate to the Shinto Shine dedicated to Kammu. I like to start visits to Kyoto here, to pay respects to Kammu, to establish the link between Imperial China and Imperial Japan, and try to grasp it has been here for over 1200 years

HEIAN ERA (784 -1185):  SHINSEN-EN

The orange, arched bridge from shore to Island, emphatically says “China”! Barely reflected is a Dragon Boat, on which, during festivals, people re-enact the Heian/Chinese tradition of writing poetry, while musicians play on boats. However, the Shinto Shrine’s subdued rendering reflects the Japanese preference for natural materials and colors.


Viewing this much larger remnant of a pond garden, now taken over by lotus, we can imagine Dragon Boats with musicians, dancers and poetry writers enjoying themselves out at their large villas set among expansive garden/parks.  Across the waters we can see the buildings nestled in trees, with their orange paint long given up for the weathered wood look.

Kyoto • 11/19/14: Two group members were delayed but here they join us;
alas two others were off somewhere and missed this shot.

2.) KAMAKURA ERA (1185-1392):


The ponds, and large sites, have been scaled back, but references to Chinese, influences remain: the rock composition on the far shore (hard to get to) refers to the Daoist Paradise, The Mystic Isles of the Blessed, with Mt. Horai disappearing into the trees. No longer able to afford large acreage of land, sites which looked on beyond to hills, providing “borrowed scenery” were favored.

TENRYŪ-JI means “Heaven-Dragon-Temple”, this one, painted on sliding doors opposite the garden, does not seem too pleased to have his temple garden turned into a DisneyLand for tourists….

KAMAKURA ERA (1185-1392): SAIHŌ-JI (A.K.A The “Moss Garden”)

• KAMAKURA ERA (1185-1392) SAIHŌ-JI (A.K.A The “Moss Garden”)
First an Imperial villa, then an Amida Paradise temple, now in a Zen complex, in many ways this is a garden gone to seed … er…moss (compare to Tenryū-ji). Trees, as much as moss, has taken over and the shoreline is very natural looking. But note the rocks in the pond are in a pretty straight line. Could they be left over from when pleasure boats were tied up to them?

(1185-1392): SAIHŌ-JI (A.K.A  The “Moss Garden”)

• KAMAKURA ERA (1185-1392) SAIHŌ-JI (A.K.A  The “Moss Garden”)
So as reverted-to-natural-state as it may appear, you can bet it gets lots of tender care and attention to keep it “natural” and the moss alive.

3.) MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568): 

MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568):  TAIZŌ-IN 

• MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568) TAIZŌ-IN
The incredible shrinking garden continues…and water has been replaced by washed gravel. But the Paradise Island tradition is there with the creation of a Turtle Island. Alas tourists are not allowed into the building, so cannot see the better frontal view, but from the side we see the flat head of the turtle, the stones of its shell and a glimpse of its flat tail (more like a beaver’s to me…). Rising up the hill beyond is Mt. Horai with a waterfall-stream coursing down into the pond.

A priest gives a tour group an introduction to his temple,
and a tour leader gets a needed break to rest her weary legs. 

MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568):  KŌRIN-IN

• MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568) KŌRIN-IN
Where room allows the raked gravel “water” element can take on the scale of a pond. And rocks for islands, rocks for mountains and rocks for waterfalls is looking familiar.

MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568):  KŌRIN-IN
Besides the main show, temples have other gardens, which often feature other items of interest. Here a Shinto Shrine and a stone lantern fill a back corner. Shrines in Buddhist temples are emblematic of the co-existence of Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto Deities of the earth are by definition everywhere. So it is important for temples to pay reverence to those beneath their feet. And stone lanterns are popular everywhere….Zen gardens, Shinto Shrines, tea gardens, etc..

4.) MOMOYAMA ERA (1568-1603):

We visited this but photos were not allowed. One needs to go on line to learn about it. But think rocks. Lots of rocks. An exuberance of rocks.

• Some visited another, Chishaku-in, and I hope they post photos and notes about it.

Next posts: EDO and MODERN ERAS...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kurama-dera Temple & Murin-an

11/25/14: Planning coffee near train station at Kurama

From Peggy:
11/23: Today, the entire group, minus Cara & Kim who are now on to Tokyo, took a train ride up into the mountains to Kurama.  Later, Steve & I went to Murin-an and then to Shoren-in Temple that was lit for night. Again, long lines to get in at Shoren-in, but the people keep moving and if you are patient, you get to see everything. 

Everyone went different ways today. Dewey & some went to Lake Biwa. Steve & I went to Ryoan-ji, Kinkaku-Ji (Golden Pavilion) & Kyoto Botanic Garden. 

We all met for a final dinner together, but forgot to take any pictures. We we having too much fun together. 

Nov. 2014 - Kurama: on the mountain trail

Kurama-dera (鞍馬寺?) is a temple in the far north of Kyoto, Japan which houses some National Treasures of Japan. It was a member of the Tendai sect and subordinate to Shōren-in from the 12th century until 1949 when it founded its own religious body. The object of worship is esoteric and unique to the temple. It is said to have been founded by a disciple of Jianzhen.

Situated in secluded wilderness at the base of Mount Kurama, it is accessible by its own cable car line, the Kurama-dera Cable. [...] It is an extremely popular temple for Japanese people to visit, owing to the many mysteries and occult events surrounding it, but does not appear in most English language guidebooks. [...] More here....

Nov. 2014 - Murin-an, historic residence: garden

Murin-an (無鄰菴?) is a Japanese garden in Kyoto, built by political and military leader Yamagata Aritomo between 1894 and 1898. It is an example of a classical Japanese promenade garden of the Meiji Period. [...]

Yamigata Aritomo was an important figure in the politics and military affairs of the Meiji Period. Born into an old Samurai family and devoted to military affairs, he traveled to Europe in 1869 as part of a delegation of experts to study the Prussian Army, and when he returned he helped re-organize the Japanese Army on the Prussian model. He became Minister of War in 1873, and was twice Prime Minister of Japan, from 1889 to 1891 and from 1898 to 1900.  [...] More here...

Nov. 2014 - Murin-an, historic residence: entrance

Our field-trippers are starting to come home this week, on different flights, different days and ways.  Have all safe trip home! 

Here is a fitting Kobayashi Issa haiku from 1816 for your trip:

botsu-botsu to neko made kaeru yozamu kana

one by one
even the cats come home...
cold nights

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Japan field trip: all the gardens, all the time - from Peggy

Peggy had trouble emailing photos from her iPad, but once she figured it out, we get to see the collection of the gardens our guides visited.  I'm posting just one photo from each garden, not to break the blogger, but I hope that when Peggy gets back she puts all her photos on a flickr account, and I will link to it from here. THANKS PEGGY!!! aleks

The Sentō Imperial Palace (仙洞御所 Sentō-gosho?) 22 acres  is a large garden in Kyoto, Japan, formerly the grounds of a palace for retired emperors (Emperor Daijō). [...] Sento Imperial Palace was completed in 1630 for Emperor Go-Mizunoo's retirement, along with the corresponding Ōmiya Palace for the Empress Dowager Nyoin. Both palaces were repeatedly destroyed by fire and reconstructed until a blaze in 1854, after which the Sento palace was never rebuilt. More here....

Our guides in Sento Gosho Imperial Garden - 11/19/14

The Shugaku-in Imperial Villa (修学院離宮 Shugaku-in Rikyū?), or Shugaku-in Detached Palace, is a set of gardens and outbuildings (mostly tea-houses) in the hills of the eastern suburbs of Kyoto, Japan (separate from the Kyoto Imperial Palace). It is one of Japan's most important large-scale cultural treasures; its gardens are one of the great masterpieces of Japanese gardening. More here...

Shugaku-in Imperial Garden. Upper garden of 3 with pond a fabulous Shakkei - 11/19/14

The Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮 Katsura Rikyū?), or Katsura Detached Palace, is a villa with associated gardens and outbuildings in the western suburbs of Kyoto, Japan (in Nishikyō-ku, separate from the Kyoto Imperial Palace). It is one of Japan's most important large-scale cultural treasures.

Its gardens are a masterpiece of Japanese gardening, and the buildings are even more important, one of the greatest achievements of Japanese architecture. The palace includes a shoin ("drawing room"), tea houses, and a strolling garden. It provides an invaluable window into the villas of princes of the Edo period. More here...

Katsura Imperial Garden - Recognize the rocky peninsula? 11/22/14

Tenryū-ji (天龍寺?)—more formally known as Tenryū Shiseizen-ji (天龍資聖禅寺?)—is the head temple of the Tenryū branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, located in Susukinobaba-chō, Ukyō Ward, Kyoto, Japan. The temple was founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, primarily to venerate Gautama Buddha, and its first chief priest was Musō Soseki. Construction was completed in 1345. As a temple related to both the Ashikaga family and Emperor Go-Daigo, the temple is held in high esteem, and is ranked number one among Kyoto's so-called Five Mountains.  More here...

Tenryu-ji: with hundreds of others to see the fall colors - 11/22/14

Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺?, lit. "Temple of the Silver Pavilion"), officially named Jishō-ji (慈照寺?, lit. "Temple of Shining Mercy"), is a Zen temple in the Sakyo ward of Kyoto, Japan. It is one of the constructions that represent the Higashiyama Culture of Muromachi period.   Ashikaga Yoshimasa initiated plans for creating a retirement villa and gardens as early as 1460;[1] and after his death, Yoshimasa would arrange for this property to become a Zen temple. More here...

Ginkaku-ji - 11/22/14

Byōdō-in (平等院?) is a Buddhist temple in the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan.[1] It is jointly a temple of the Jōdo-shū (Pure Land) and Tendai-shū sects.  This temple was originally built in 998 in the Heian period as a rural villa of high ranking courtier Minamoto no Shigenobu, Minister of the Left. The property was purchased from Minamoto no Shigenobu's wife after he died by Fujiwara no Michinaga, one of the most powerful members of the Fujiwara clan. The villa was made into a Buddhist temple by Fujiwara no Yorimichi in 1052.  More here...

Byodo-in; Steve & Peggy joined several hundred at Byodo-in today (11/22) to see the Phoenix Temple with only a handful of non-Japanese in the mix.  It was 70 degrees and a gorgeous day!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Field-trip to Japan continues...

• From Dewey -  meeting locals:
Japan, Nov. 21,  2014: meeting locals (from Dewey)
Japan, Nov. 21, 2014: meeting locals (from Dewey)

• From Steve - Just another day in Kyoto:
Japan, Nov. 21, 2014: Just another day in Kyoto (from Steve)

• From Ruth:  'Well, on the 3rd day we lost our smartphone and so have had no way to send emails or to phone except by using our group leaders phone.  There are not internet cafes anymore because everyone has their own phone!  So we found an international community house with computers and a library and a wonderful space to hang out when it starts raining.

We have been so lucky with weather.  Partly sunny every day and no rain.  All the maples are at their peak and it is cold enouh at night that the leaves are staying on.  The town is ugly gray boxes but the gardens and hills all around are spectacular.  More wonderful than I imagined from the books and photos--but you know me, I have to feel things.'

• From Peggy - Saiho-ji Moss Garden:

Japan, Nov. 21, 2014: Saiho-ji Moss Garden (from Peggy)
Japan, Nov. 21, 2014: Saiho-ji Moss Garden (from Peggy)
Thank you, Gang! We appreciate all your reports, here,  back home in seattle (it rains here now)...  aleks

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kodai-ji - Lit at Night from Peggy in Japan

Well, our field-trippers are not just eating in  Japan, although that must be fun, too. Feast your eyes on the picks Peggy G. took of Kodai-ji.  (Kodai-ji is a zen temple established at the beginning of 17th century in Kyoto - more info here).  Thank you, Peggy, for great photos!

Kodai-ji - Lit at Night, 11/15/14

Kodai-ji - Lit at Night, 11/15/14

Kodai-ji - Lit at Night, 11/15/14

Kodai-ji - Lit at Night, 11/15/14

Kodai-ji - Lit at Night, 11/20/14

And Dewey reports: Katsura has taken all pines, plants off middle island of amanohashidate...."got too big and crowded".  Mother Nature Spurs growth, Japanese gardens tamp it down....

Dewy included the picture below with his Katsura report   - thank you Dewey!

man on the ladder, fear little pine... (caption by aleks)