Sunday, December 28, 2014

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

by Dewey Webster

6.) MODERN ERA (1868 - )

MODERN ERA (1868 - ) ZHIHŌ-IN.  Photo by Dewey Webster

In the ‘60’s this temple had Mirei Shigemori design its gardens in a contemporary take on traditional karesansui (“dry landscape) conventions. In this one, The Garden of the Cross, it is not a turtle island harking to Daoism, but it is a cross, referring to the icon of Christianity, which he has designed. The stones on an angle to the walkway are the upright; the three from the dark on in the foreground, the speckled one in the middle, and the hard to see one in the hedge, are the cross bar. If you extend the upright under the walkway at the end….

MODERN ERA (1868 - ) ZHIHŌ-IN. Photo by Dewey Webster

…it terminates in the stone lantern. Look familiar? It is an Oribe, similar to the one in our tea garden. Hard to see but in its base there is a carving of a monk-like figure. During the 17th – 19th Centuries of oppression of Christianity, the Oribe was often found in homes of “Hidden Christians” who could pray to it as the Cross of Calvary without arousing official suspicion.

MODERN ERA (1868 - ) KENNIN-JI.  Photo by Dewey Webster

A recent member of the SJG community, Mark Bourne suggested we visit Chōontei (“Sound of Waves Garden”), which he worked on while apprenticing to the master landscape gardener Yasuo Kitayama. The central stone arrangement represents the Buddha and his two attendants; one in the foreground, a praying believer, and, on the left, a stone for seated meditation.

Photo by Dewey Webster

I was surprised by the number of women (and men) walking the streets and gardens in kimono, so I asked about it.

Seems the Mayor is promoting the wearing of kimono, indeed he does so most frequently. And he has gotten various tourist related associations (taxi, tourist sites, hotels, restaurants) to back it by having discounts for guests who also wear them.

What if you no longer have kimono in the bottom of your dresser, or do not wish to lug them to Kyoto when you visit? No problem, there are kimono rental stores at your service.

MODERN ERA (1868 - ) ZHIHŌ-IN.  Photo by Dewey Webster

Let’s close with two gardens that show the breadth of design of View Gardens. Here, the Main Garden at Zhihō-in, also by Mirei ShIgemori, uses deeply raked gravel and sharp stones to evoke the energy of rough waves and rugged rocky islands.

MODERN ERA (1868 - ) KOTŌ-IN.  Photo by Dewey Webster

• MODERN ERA (1868 - ) KOTŌ-IN
And here, the Main Garden at Kotō-in, the greens of moss, dappled with fallen maple leaves, envelop one with a sense of boundless calm and serenity.

Shinnen omedetou gozaimasu
("New year congradulations")

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...