- “Nanzen-ji Sanmon” is one of the three largest gates in Japan, at a height of 22 meters!
- The scenery from the top of the gate is superb!
- A lesson from the first chief priest, Daimyo Kokushi.
- Kobori Enshuu and his gardening.
- The Hojo garden with Mt. Dainichizan in the background
- Kohojo Garden
- Rokudoutei Garden
- Nanzen-ji temple has more to offer than just gardens!
“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!
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?
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8435,