Jul. 26, 2021 UPDATE
Cleanse your mind and body at the Japanese gardens of Kyoto!
Part 2

Take a leisurely walk in a garden! The chisen kaiyu-shiki gardens of Kyoto

At the temples of Kyoto, you can enjoy the beauty of Japanese gardens. The most popular garden style is chisen, and chisen gardens are categorized into three subcategories: kaiyu-shiki, kansho-shiki, and shuyu-shiki. This time we’re going to take a look at chisen kaiyu-shiki gardens, which can be enjoyed by taking a leisurely stroll on the market path through the garden, and by enjoying the scene unfolding before you that has been made to look like it was all nature at work. These gardens were at their peak during the Muromachi and Edo periods. At many famous sightseeing spots in Kyoto, you can enjoy gardens like this, so let’s go one step deeper into the world of Japanese gardens, and take a look at the chisen kaiyu-shiki gardens of Kyoto!
Kodai-ji Temple
Kodai-ji Temple
Between the audience hall and the main hall, you can see Garyuchi Pond, which has the mountains of Higashiyama as its shakkei-background. But there are actually two ponds here, and the second one is named Engetsu Pond. You can enjoy the garden by following the route along the ponds, which is why this is a good example of a chisen kaiyu-shiki garden.
engetsu pond
On Engetsu Pond, you can see two islands: the northern one has a group of stones grouped so that they look like a turtle, while the southern one resembles a crane. This garden is one of the best examples of gardens from the Azuchi-Momoyama period, and it’s also designated as a Place of Scenic Beauty.
Heian Shrine
Heian Shrine
The Shin’en Garden of Heian Shrine is representative of the gardens of the Meiji period. The garden is made up of four parts, middle, east, south, and west. The garden is very big – in fact, it’s 33,000 square meters! The garden was made by using the knowledge cumulated through the 1000 year history of Kyoto, and because of this, it has been named a Place of Scenic Beauty. As you walk by the pond, you get to see different, beautiful scenery all around you.
soryu pond
In the middle garden, you can see these stepping stones on Soryu Pond, but I hope you’ll also note that they’re actually in the shape of a dragon, and this is why these stones are called the “Dragon Bridge.” There’s something very elegant about standing on this Dragon Bridge and looking at the beautiful garden around you. This garden looks different every season of the year, so it’s always a popular tourist destination.
Murin-an’s garden has the mountains of Higashiyama as its background, and at it, you can listen to the winding stream flowing by. There is a small three-level waterfall on the eastern side, reminiscent of the one by Sanbo-in at Daigo-ji Temple. The brilliant greenery of this garden makes it a very nice chisen kaiyu-shiki garden.
Murin-an’s garden was designed by the seventh Ueji, Ogawa Jihei, who was also responsible for the Shin’en Garden of Heian Shrine. The garden was so well received that it was soon known as a Place of Scenic Beauty. The omoya main building is made of wood, and inside it, you can enjoy a quiet moment with some matcha and sweets while you gaze at the beautiful garden.
Toji-in Temple
Toji-in Temple
Toji-in Temple’s garden is divided into two parts, the eastern Shinji Garden with Mt. Kinugasa as its shakkei-background, and the western Fuyo Garden, which is a more colorful one with many flowers planted by it. Enjoy the garden by strolling around it. In the picture, you can see Shinji Pond.
shinji pond
By Shinji Pond, you can see beautiful flowers and plants, which all bloom at different times of the year. This beautiful garden was designed by the famous gardener Muso Soseki (1275-1351). This temple is also the final resting place of a shogun, and so it’s only natural that you can enjoy both the historic atmosphere and the beauty of nature at this temple.
The chisen kaiyu-shiki gardens are big, have a pond or ponds, and often also have stones or boulders placed at strategic places. They’re also great places to relax and listen to the sounds of nature. As the seasons change, so do the gardens and you get to see a different side of them. Next, rock gardens. Rock gardens are called karesansui gardens in Japanese, and they don’t have ponds, but make white pebbles play the role of flowing water. So let’s take the Randen tramline to see some rock gardens!

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