October 24, 2010

A Karesansui garden in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

These pictures were taken on my recent tour of Kyoto. Kyoto is the notable metropolis which has lasted for more than a millennium and boasts a proud heritage of the unique art and culture of Japan.

Many of the following pictures show two basic types of gardens in the famed Zen temples of Kyoto. The first type of garden is called a Kare-sansui (dry landscape) garden, which represents a metaphysical landscape with rocks and gravel. The second type of garden is called Chisen (pond and spring) garden, which represents an ideal landscape of hills and streams with water and rocks.

This beautiful Karesansui garden is called Dokuza-tei (the garden of sitting in solitude) and belongs to the Hojo (head monk's quarters) of the Zuiho-in (beautiful mountain house) sub-temple of Daitoku-ji.

This garden symbolically represents the Chinese mythological landscape of the Horai-san (the isle of eternal youth where a hermit lives). This sacred island is quietly and solitarily sitting midst a stormy wilderness of waters.

Kyoto must be a golden treasury of Japanese beauty and spirituality.

Garyo-ike (lying-down dragon pond) in Kodai-ji (Kyoto)

The corridor on the pond is called Garyo-ro (lying-down dragon corridor) because this corridor extends like the ridge of a dragon.

This corridor connects the shrine of the founder to the ancestral shrine of this Zen temple.

This beautiful garden was designed by Kobori Enshu, who was a leading expert of the tea ceremony, garden designer and architect of 16-17th century.

The grace and elegance of Kyoto is fundamentally based on the art of tea ceremony, which derives its origin from Japanese Zen Buddhism.

A Chashitsu (tea hut) in Kodai-ji (Kyoto)

This tea hut (Chasitsu) is called Ihou-an (lingering-perfume hut). This tea hut was built by Haiya Shoueki (a wealthy merchant and a master of the tea ceremony of 17th century) to cherish the memory of his deceased wife (Yoshino-dayu). The round window is called Yoshino-mado.

A Karesansui garden in Kodai-ji (Kyoto)

This famous beautiful garden (Kita-niwa) is located to the east of the Kita-shoin (north library) of the Entoku-in (perfect mercy house) sub-temple of Kodai-ji.

Though this garden had been originally the Chisen (pond and spring) garden of the Hushimi castle, it was modified into a Karesansui (dry landscape) style when it was moved to this temple. In later ages, Kobori Enshu polished up this garden and added refinements to it.

The rocks rising about the middle symbolically represents the landscape of the Horai-zan (the Isle of Eternal Youth).

The Hojo (head monk's quarters) of Nanzen-in in Nanzen-ji (Kyoto)

Maple leaves in Imamiya-jinjya (Kyoto)

A garden pond in Nanzen-ji (Kyoto)

In the deep stillness of the garden, I saw flowerlike colorful carps quietly swimming and making gentle ripples on the smooth surface of still water.

The garden of Zen is an enchanting miniature of the universe where we live.

A garden pond in Nanzen-ji (Kyoto)

Taiko-bashi (arched bridge) and Romon (tower gate) in Shimogamo-jinjya (Kyoto)

A Karesansui garden in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

This Karesansui garden lies to the south of the Hojo of the Ryugen-in (dragon-source house) sub-temple of Daitoku-ji.

The rocks located about the middle represent the Horai-zan and the white gravel surrounding these rocks expresses the mighty ocean.

A Tsubo-niwa (inner garden) in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

This famous Tsubo-niwa (inner garden) of the Ryugen-in of Daitoku-ji is called Toteki-ko (east drip court) garden.

A Tsubo-niwa garden is commonly provided in the narrow space between the buildings to let in light and wind.

This small dry landscape symbolically represents a teaching of Zen that the drips of water dropping down from rocks assemble together to be a mountain stream, such mountain streams gather together to be a great river, and great rivers concentrate to be the open sea at last. That is to say, many little efforts realize a great result in the discipline for enlightenment.

A Karesansui garden in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

This stone belongs to the Koda-tei (the Koda River garden) of Ryugen-in of Daitoku-ji. This small and refined stone garden is composed in so-called A-un-no-niwa (the garden of alpha and omega) style.

The moss-covered stone and ground represent the waterside of the Koda River. The white gravel symbolizes the ruffled surface of this river.

The Koda River is the Chinese river which flows near the Rinzai-in (Rinzai Zen temple) which Gigen or the founder of Rinzai Zen sect established in 9th century.

This stone is A-no-ishi (the stone of alpha). A (alpha) means the root entity from which entire existence originates. Un (omega) means the ultimate wisdom which entire existenese reaches finally.

A Karesansui garden in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

This beautifully moss-covered garden is located to the north of the Hojo of the Ryugen-in sub-temple of Daitoku-ji and is called Ryugin-tei (dragon flute garden).

The set of three rocks standing about the middle symbolizes the Shumi-sen mountain (the Mount Sumeru) which rises up in the center of the universe.

According to the Buddhist outlook on the universe, the summit of the Shumi-sen reaches into the sacred world of gods and is surrounded by seven mountains of gold, the Tecchi-san (mountain of iron) and eight oceans.

These oceans are elegantly represented by the moss-covered ground in this peaceful garden.

A Karesansui garden in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

These steppingstones are placed in the Dokuza-tei of Zuiho-in and lead to the Chashitsu (tea room) named Yokei-an (heritage-of-fortune hut).

The steppingstones, the white gravel and the moss-covered ground compose an elegant picturesque scene.

A Karesansui garden in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

This stone is Un-no-ishi (the stone of omega) of the Koda-tei (the Koda River garden) of Ryugen-in.

As stated above, Un (omega) means the ultimate wisdom which entire existenese finally reaches.

A Karesansui garden in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

A Tsubo-niwa (inner garden) in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

A Chashitsu (tea hut) in Daitoku-ji (Kyoto)

These beautiful steppingstones will lead you to the Chashitsu (tea room) adjacent to Dokuza-tei (the garden of sitting in solitude) of the Zuiho-in (beautiful mountain house) .

Shinden (sacturary) in Shimogamo-jinjya (Kyoto)

Kannon-do (temple dedicated to Kannon) in Ginkaku-ji (Kyoto)

Yasaka-koshindo in Gion (Kyoto)

The Ko-shin-do is the shrine to Ko-shin-san or Shomen Kongo (blue face demon-god). Shomen Kongo is one of the Buddhist demon-gods with a blue face, hair standing on end and grasping a thunderbolt sword for destroying devils.

According to the Japanese folk belief of Ko-shin-machi, Shomen Kongo is believed to have miraculous powers for purifying our earthly desires, saving us from any agony and fulfilling our sincere wishes.

The see-not, hear-not, and speak-not monkeys are believed to be the spirit servants of this demon-god. The small colorful bags hung behind the three monkeys are called "Kukuri-zaru" (bound monkey) . The Kukuri-zaru symbolizes the binding or restriction of our lusts and earthy passions.

Ishibei-koji alley in Gion (Kyoto)

A Shinden (sanctuary) in Imamiya-jinjya (Kyoto)

Along Ishibei-koji alley in Gion (Kyoto)

Kangetsu-dai (moon-viewing stage) in Kodai-ji (Kyoto)

The Gojyunoto (five-storied pagoda) of Hogan-ji in Gion (Kyoto)

October 10, 2010

Fern leaves and a stream in Jochi-ji

The runnig water of a stream has no constant shape and perpetually transforms itself in the course of nature.

Like flowing water, all living things continuously change their forms and shapes every moment.

The seasons are rotating and shifting ceaselessly through the laws of nature.

Kinmokusei (Osmanthus fragrans var. aurantiacus) flowers in Jochi-ji

The period during which the bright orange flowers of Kinmokusei trees bloom is extremely short. These tiny flowers open and fall in concert as if by previous common consent everywhere in Kita-kamakura.

I found enormous flowers of Kinmokusei trees blooming spectacularly in many places few days ago.

After one night of a driving rain, most of these flowers fell all at once and created the brilliant mosaics of autumn on the ground wet with raindrops in every place.

Miyagino-hagi (Lespedeza thunbergii) flowers in Jochi-ji

After the heavy rain continuing through the night, stray raindrops were still playing with the magenta flowers of the Miyagino-hagi in the clear sunlight of the early afternoon.

Higan-bana (Lycoris radiata) flowers in Jochi-ji

Fallen leaves in Engaku-ji

Trees have begun to drop their golden leaves in preparation for the arrival of harsh winter season.

The gardens of Zen are slowly but surely becoming occupied by the elegant tints of autumn.

Higan-bana (Lycoris radiata) flowers in Engaku-ji

Kinmokusei (Osmanthus fragrans var. aurantiacus) flowers in Tokei-ji

Inushouma (Cimicifuga japonica) flowers in Tokei-ji

Miyagino-hagi (Lespedeza thunbergii) flowers in Tokei-ji

Kashiwaba-ajisai (Hydrangea quercifolia) leaves in Tokei-ji

A Jyoro-gumo (Nephila clavata) spider in Tokei-ji

I saw a beautiful female silk spider quietly and magnificently standing in readiness on her shining silvery web.

Soon she will fade away from view leaving her precious egg pouch somewhere in this autumal garden.

Shion (Aster tataricus) flowers in Kaizo-ji

A Hototogisu (Tricyrtis hirta) flower in kaizo-ji

A small violet flower of Hototogisu was softly lit on like a floral lamp of Emile Galle in the shade of the garden.

Gamazumi (Viburnum dilatatum) fruits in Kaizo-ji

Higanbana (Lycoris radiata) flowers in Kaizo-ji

I found these vivid flowers of Higanbana blooming quietly beside an old well in the garden of this temple.

"Higanbana" means "the fower which blooms in the equinoctial week (Higan)" and one of the typical flowers that represent the deeping of autumn in Kamakura.

The inscription on the stone column says "Sokonuke no ido" which stands for "a bottomless well" in Chinese characters and Hiragana. This small well is one of the ten legendary wells of old Kamakura.

The name of this well symbolizes the mental state of enlightenment in which any bottom or restraint of human mind is removed to achieve the absolute freedom of spirit.

Tamasudare (Zephyranthes candida) flowers and Murasakishikibu (Callicarpa japonica) fruits in Ougigayatsu valley

October 4, 2010

Susuki (Japanese pampas grass) spikes in Jochi-ji

Autumn is here and the delicate and rich nuances of lights and tints have already returned to Kita-kamakura to delight our eyes greatly.

In the clear and pleasant sunlight, the shining golden spikes of Susuki grass are quietly swaying to the gentle breeze of autumn.

Until harsh winter arrives at last, the autumnal colors and lights are sure to keep bringing their tasteful elegance to the peaceful gardens of zen.

Hiyodoribana (Eupatorium chinense) flowers in Jochi-ji

A Tsumagurohyomon (Argyreus hyperbius) butterfly in Tokei-ji

In the clear sunlight of a fine afternoon, I saw a female Tsumagurohyomon butterfly brightly and eagerly flying around blooming cosmos flowers in search for floral nectar.

Soon colorful butterflies will disappear from view inconspicuously, leaving a prominent role in beautifying the garden of zen to the flaming colors of the autumnal leaves.

Miyagino-hagi (Lespedeza thunbergii) flowers in Tokei-ji

Kosumosu (Cosmos) flowers in Tokei-ji

In the tranquil garden of zen, all animate beings are merrily and ceaselessly singing their sweet songs of life.

All you need is the innocent sense of wonder to hear their inaudible enchanting songs.