December 20, 2022

Choshukaku teahouse in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Choshukaku teahouse in late autumn: Sankei-en  (Yokohama)


Just before the arrival of winter, in the gentle sunlight of a late autumn day, a mosaic of various tinted leaves are shining brightly like the exquisite drawing patterns on a tea container of Kin-makie (gold lacquer work) prepared for an autumnal tea ceremony.

This elaborate and sophisticated teahouse of Sukiya-zukuri (the style of a Japanese tea-ceremony building), which was reconstructed and named "Choshukaku" by Tomitaro “Sankei” Hara (1869-1939), is standing still at the foot of a small valley as if to be almost buried in the colorful autumn foliage. Its name "Choshukaku" denotes the pavilion for listening to the sounds of autumn.

The autumn winds are shaking and disrobing dried leaves and colored leaves keep scattering silently. The sounds of autumn insects are gradually fading away in the bush, and the occasional crying voices of migratory birds can be heard now and again.

The tea ceremonies of Sankei and his guests must have been held in this elegant teahouse on various occasions to enjoy tea and to admire the seasonal beauties of nature. In its modest but refined tearoom, they must have quietly appreciated the subtle sounds and colors of the swiftly passing seasons.




The map and explanatory notes (English version) of the garden are published on Sankei-en official website.
https://www.sankeien.or.jp/en/


Rinshunkaku palace in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Rinshunkaku palace in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)


Sankei-en Garden is a vast garden-building complex of various historical buildings, temples, teahouses and traditional Japanese landscape gardens, which is located in the seaside area adjacent Yokohama Port. 17 Japanese historic buildings are located on the about 18ha site. Sankei-en was built in 1906 as the private home of Tomitaro “Sankei” Hara (1869-1939) and was named after his Gago (pseudonym). 

It is widely admired for its great aesthetic quality which is equal to that of the Katsura Imperial Villa of Kyoto. It was opened to the public in 1906 through the courtesy of Sankei Hara and, subsequently, its further construction works and landscaping were continued as his life work.

"Sankei" means "three valleys" and is associated with the place name of the location of this garden. He was an extremely wealthy silk trader in Yokohama and one of the leading Japanese industrialists of the Meiji era (1868-1912). 

Sankei was a prominent collector of Japanese antiques as well as an outstanding patron of the Japanese art world of his time. He was also an elegant Cha-jin (master of the tea ceremony) and a distinguished Huryu-jin (man of refined tastes) who loved painting and calligraphy deeply.

The elegant building named "Rinshunkaku" (the palace for overlooking spring), which symbolizes this Sankei-en, is calmly bathed in the dull afternoon sunlight of late autumn against the backdrop of rust-colored trees and leaves. 

This building is constructed in the Shoin-and-Sukiya-zukuri architectural form which is the combination of Shoin-zukuri (the traditional housing style for the samurai class) and the style of Sukiya-zukuri (the style of a tea-ceremony house). 

The building, which was moved from Osaka and formerly called "Hashuken" Kaisho (meeting-palace), was purchased around 1905 and then was reconstructed around 1917 here, adding Sankei's favorite tastes.

Sankei believed that this palace, called Momoyama Goten (Momoyama Palace) by himself, was the remains of the North Palace at Juraku-dai (the residence and office in Kyoto) of the Shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi in Momoyama period (approx. 1583-1600), which is said to have been designed by Sen No Rikyu.



Three-storied pagoda of the former Tomyo-ji temple beyond the pond: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Three-storied pagoda of the former Tomyo-ji temple beyond the pond: Sankei-en (Yokohama)


Beyond the long drooping branches of the weeping willow tree, the beautiful three-storied pagoda can be seen atop of the height decorated with the rusty red colors of autumn leaves. It was relocated and restored here by Sankei Hara in 1914 as the central monument of his garden. 

This graceful pagoda is visible from various places of this Kaiyu-style garden (stroll garden with a central pond) and is adding essential touch to the scenery of the garden which keeps changing with the seasons.

This pagoda was transfered to Sankei-en garden from Tomyo-ji temple (Kizugawa City, Kyoto Prefecture) and was restored as the first historic building in Sankei-en garden.

Tomyo-ji temple was an ancient esoteric temple of the Tendai sect and was originally located in the mountain along Kizugawa River. This pagoda is said to have been built in 1457 during the Muromachi period (1336-1573).

This pagoda has a style of the architecture called Wa-yo (traditional Japanese style), which is distinct from the Zenshu-yo (Zen Sect style) and Daibutsu-yo (Great Buddha style) architectures. 


Choshukaku teahouse and Rinshunkaku palace in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Choshukaku teahouse and Rinshunkaku palace in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Chosukaku teahouse in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Chosukaku teahouse in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Autumn leaves at the stream: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Autumn leaves at the stream: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Choshu-kaku teahouse in late autumn: Sankeien (Yokohama)

Choshu-kaku teahouse in late autumn: Sankeien (Yokohama)

 

Teisha (bridge with a moon-viewing pavilion) in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Teisha (bridge with a moon-viewing pavilion): Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Tsukubai (stone washbasin): Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Tsukubai (stone washbasin): Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Rinshunkaku palace and garden in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Rinshunkaku palace and garden in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Juto Oido hall of the former Tenzuiji temple in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Juto Oido hall of the former Tenzuiji temple in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)


This Juto Oido hall (Ihaido hall) for sheltering a Buddhist memorial tablet, which was built during one's lifetime, was made in 1591 by the Shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi to pray for the long and healthy life of his beloved mother who had recovered from an illness. 

Its Momoyama-style wood carvings (lotus flowers, glowing clouds, musical instruments and so on),  pillars and the various ornaments above them, which symbolized Buddhists' Pure Land, were once painted with heavenly colors. 

Its wooden doors are decorated with the carvings of Kalavinka. It is an imaginary creature in Buddhism, whose upper body is a human and lower body is a bird. This imaginary bird lives in the Pure Land  and keeps singing sweet notes to tell us of the paradise where all living things are purified and free from worldly desires.

Tenzui-ji Temple, where this small hall was located, was one of the minor temples within Daitoku-ji Temple in Kyoto. It was closed at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) and no longer exists.

This small beautiful hall was moved to Sankei-en in 1905 and was reconstructed as the first historic building in its inner garden by Sankei Hara to express his deep adoration for the culture in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (approx. 1558-1600) of Japan.




Juto Oido hall of the former Tenzuiji temple: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Juto Oido hall of the former Tenzuiji temple: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Yokobue-an teahouse in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Yokobue-an teahouse in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Three-story pagoda of the former Tomyo-ji temple in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Three-story pagoda of the former Tomyo-ji temple in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Hatsunechaya teahouse in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Hatsunechaya teahouse in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Nanmon gate in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Nanmon gate in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

Kakushokaku palace and pond in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

Kakushokaku palace and pond in late autumn: Sankei-en (Yokohama)

 

October 28, 2022

Shokin-tei teahouse and pond garden: Katsura-rikyu (Kyoto)

Shokin-tei teahouse and pond garden: Katsura-rikyu (Kyoto)


About the middle of this September, I visited Katsura Imperial Villa (located in Kyoto City, under the jurisdiction of the Imperial Household Agency), which is esteemed as one of the most exquisite examples of Japanese classic architecture and garden design. I was given a guided tour by the Imperial Household Agency, which lasted only one hour, to look around the pond-garden, the teahouses and the private Buddhist-hall scattered along the pond.

Unfortunately, due to the guiding policy of the Imperial Household Agency which is in charge of managing the facilities, it was not allowed to see the celebrated interior of the main palaces such as the Study halls, the reception hall and so on. The architectural designs, furnitures and interior decorations of these palaces are the highlights of this excellent villa.

The palaces and garden in the present form were completed in 1645 as the residence for the Katsura Family, members of Japan's Imperial Family.

The riverside area of the Katsura-gawa River, where this villa is located, was known for the noted place for moon-watching. There is a shrine called Tsukiyomi Shrine (moonlit-night-viewing shrine) near this villa, and the name "Katsura" is said to be derived from the Chinese word for "moon-viewing." 

Katsura Imperial Villa, located in such a location, was basically designed to be a place for viewing the beautiful moon. It also served as a aristocratic place for various entertainments and events, such as boating on the pond, tea ceremonies at its teahouses scattered around the pond-garden, and banquets, in addition to enjoying the moonlight.



The imaginary view of the moonlit pond garden: Katsura-rikyu (Kyoto)

The imaginary view of the moonlit pond garden: Katsura-rikyu (Kyoto)


The tradition of admiring the moon (Tsuki) beautifully shining in the dark night sky has existed in Japan since ancient times. It is said that the custom of Kangetsu-kai (moon-viewing banquet) was introduced to Japan from China during Heian period (794-1185) and became popular among the nobility of those days.

In those days, the moon-viewing party was the elegant event in which noble people enjoyed boating on the pond, tea ceremonies, improvised poems, and Kangen (wind and string music) associated with the beautiful moon, while drinking liquor, in the grounds of their mansions softly lighted up by moonlight.

The "Tsukimidai" (the platform to view the moon) of the main palace of Katsura Imperial Villa, which is built adjacent to the tranquil pond, is designed to face the optimal direction for viewing the bright harvest moon and its reflection on the calm water of the pond.


Shin-goten (new palace): Katsura-rikyu (Kyoto)

Shin-goten (new palace): Katsura-rikyu (Kyoto)


The Shoin (study hall) buildings, Shin-goten (new palace), teahouses, and so on are elaborately located throughout the site of about 6 hectares. This villa is known both in Japan and abroad for its sophisticated architectural design and highly refined "Sukiya-zukuri" style (the tea-ceremony-room style). 

The ornaments and furnishings of these buildings and the scenery of the pond garden are admired as one of the most remarkable masterpieces of the residence of a court noble in the early Edo period (1603-1867). This type of architecture is called "Shinden-zukuri" which denotes the typical style of court nobles' houses in the Heian period (794-1185,) which features an extensive garden with paths around a central pond.
 
At the time of the establishment of this villa, the water level of the pond was the same as that of the Katsura river flowing nearby, and the pond was directly connected to the river by a channel to enable a pleasure boat to go out from the garden to the Katsura River.

The floors of the palace and Shoin buildings are raised high to secure them against the floodwater of the river. 

When this garden was covered with floodwater, these buildings, which are made of delicate timbers and paper, might have seemed to be floating gently on the moonlit water like a beautiful sailing ship anchored there. 

(Unfortunately, the Shoin buildings were undergoing extensive repairs and were completely enclosed with construction partition panels. Even their exteriors could hardly be seen.)
 


The interior of Gepparo teahouse: Katsura-rikyu (Kyoto)

The interior of Gepparo teahouse: Katsura-rikyu (Kyoto)


As having been expressed in the old oriental legends related to the mystic power of the moon, such as the mythological stories of "Chang'e Hongetsu" (Chang'e on the moon) in China and "Taketori Monogatari" (the tale of the princess from the moon) which is the oldest story in Japan, it has been believed in Asia that the moon brings spiritual power to lure people into the celestial world and to give them the elixir of eternal life. 

When people looked up at the moon shining in the darkness of night, they probably imagined that the bright moonlight was coming from the immortal realm which was located far away beyond the dark night sky. The moon's dazzling radiance might have been thought to be the path of light between this mortal life and the eternal life after death, through which the mortals would reach the distant paradise of eternal youth and immortality. 

This elegant teahouse for autumn named "Geppa-ro" was specially prepared for viewing the harvest moon reflected on the rippling surface of the pond. 

The name "Geppa-ro" means the lookout for moonlight waves and is quoted from the passage of a classic Chinese poem by Bai Letian which denotes "the moon is reflected like a single pearl in the center of ripples on water."

The Chinese characters "kagetsu" on the wooden plaque means "composing a poem about the moon."