The most noble temple in Japan “Nanzen-ji Temple”, has more to offer than just gardens!

Nanzen-ji temple is the headquarters of the Nanzen-ji branch of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, founded in 1291. It is the most noble Zen temple in Japan. There is a Western style bridge over the canal of Lake Biwa in Shiga that blends with the old Japanese architecture and traditional scenery.

Visitors looking at the Hojo garden.


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Nanzen-ji Sanmon Gate

“Nanzen-ji Sanmon” is one of the three largest gates in Japan, at a height of 22 meters!

Once you step inside the Nanzen-ji precinct, the large sanmon gate pops up before your eyes. This gate is one of the three largest gates in Japan following the Chion-in Temple in Kyoto and the Kuon-ji Temple in Yamanashi. Sanmon is offcially called “Sangedatsumon”, or the three gates of liberation that symbolize three mental states. Kumon gate symbolizes emptiness, musomon gate symbolizes formlessness, and muganmon gate symbolizes desirelessness, all requiring you to pass through before reaching a Buddhist paradise. The philosophy says that ‘figure’ is nothing (kuu), and there is nothing to compare. The world is completely equal, so there is nothing to desire. If you reach ‘realization’, you contribute without expecting anything in return. Keeping this in my mind, I passed under the gate!

Balcony

Balcony
Visitors enjoying the scenery from the balcony.
A stone lantern
The largest stone lantern in Asia!

The scenery from the top of the gate is superb!

You can go up stairs if you pay an entrance fee at the Nanzen-ji Snamon gate. There’s a balcony where you can view the whole city of Kyoto. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, but the scenery is really beautiful! There is also a stone lantern close to the Sanmon that measures 6 meters and is said to be the tallest stone lantern in Asia.

A lesson from the first chief priest, Daimyo Kokushi.

I walked towards the Hojo from the Hodo after passing the Sanmon gate. I found a lesson from Daimyo Kokushi on the wall.

Do not let past troubles in your mind, nor future fears.
Live in this moment, this place, in pure mind without regret, and each day will be a good life.

It sounds so easy, but it’s actually very difficult, isn’t it?

Hojo Garden.

Kobori Enshuu and his gardening.

If you keep going through the dark corridor of Hojo, you’ll see the Hojo garden created by Kobori Enshuu between 1624 and 1644 on your left hand side. His name often appears while walking in the garden. Kobori Enshu was a tea master and a Samurai during the Edo period (1603〜1867). He was born in Shiga prefecture and loved art and music. He was also a businessman who poured his passion for tea into exporting Japanese tea ware to China, Korea, and Holland. He also worked in civil engineering/construction and fixed up the palace and garden.

Hojo Garden

Hojo garden corridor

Hojo garden corridor
Hojo garden with Mt. Dainichizan in the background

The Hojo garden with Mt. Dainichizan in the background

Hojo garden is located in the southern part of Daihojo, and is a national treasure in Japan. You can sit in the front garden and take in the sights while relaxing. Mt. Dainichizan can be seen in the background of the “Tora-no-ko-watashi” garden. The stones represent a baby tiger and an adult tiger, and the white sand represents river water. This scenery shows how the family of tigers cross the river. The technique of using the mountain as background scenery for the garden is called “shakkei”, and it comes from China and Japan. I was so astonished by how everything was so detailed and was very moved by the creativity of the Japanese people from the time. It is so different from modern Japanese people, who don’t live as close to nature.

Kohojo garden

Kohojo garden

Kohojo Garden

Kohojo garden was constructed in 1966 in the west part of Kohojo. It is also called “Noyshintei”, and was made using stones in the Karesansui design style. The priest at the time, Zebkei Shibayama, tried to express his heart and poured his passion into it. I feel that it shows the stillness of Zen with no attachments.

Rokudoutei garden

Rokudoutei Garden

Rokudoutei garden was constructed in 1967. It shows the endless circle of transmigration in the six posthumous worlds; heaven, the human world, bloodbath, brute, poverty, and hell.
Contrary to the Nyosintei garden, which expresses the simple world of realization, Rokudoutei seems to express worldly desires and suffering.

Ryuzu

Ryuzu
Taking a picture of the wall painting wasn’t allowed.

Canal

Nanzen-ji temple has more to offer than just gardens!

You can see the beautiful wall paintings of the Kanō School inside the Hojo. The Kanō School is an influential group of artists who practiced for 400 years, between the Muromachi and Edo periods (15th Century to 19th Century). They were closely connected to the leadership at the time, and created a variety of images ranging from wall paintings to fans. I can’t show you photos of the wall paintings, because photography was prohibited. They are very beautiful, so I recommend taking a look when you visit! There is also a pure water stream from a river running from Lake Biwa and it feels so refreshing! You can even enjoy Matcha tea at the Honbo waterfall.

Map

Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8435,

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AUTHOR

kyoami

kyoami

Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.

Information

Address Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, 606-8435
Hours 1 December to 28 February:08:40 to 16:30 1 March to 30 November:08:40 to 17:00
Price Hojo Garden:500 yen, 400 yen for high school students, 300 yen for junior high & elementary school children. Group discounts: groups of 30 people or more, each person at 400 yen, 350 yen for high school student, 250 yen for junior high & elementary school children. Sanmon: 500 yen, 400 yen for high school students, 300 yen for junior high & elementary school children. Group discounts: groups of 30 people or more, each person at 400 yen, 350 yen for high school student, 250 yen for junior high & elementary school children. Nanzen-ji:300 yen, 250 yen for high school students, 150 yen for junior high & elementary school children Group discounts: 30 people or more, each person at 250 yen, 150 yen for high school students, 100 yen for junior high & elementary school children.
Close New year’s Eve(28 to 31 December)
Access 10 min walk from the “Keage” station subway. 10 min walk from the “Higashi tennoji-cho” bus stop
Phone 075-771-0365
Website http://www.nanzen.net/index.html