Bonsai tree: Jojakko-ji and Tenryu-ji

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bonsai tree: Jojakko-ji and Tenryu-ji

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Jojakko-ji and Tenryu-ji

Jojakko-ji was the hilliest of the temples I visited. Winding paths led higher and higher up the mountain until I could see Kyoto in the distance. The temple was founded around the end of the 16th century by Nisshen, 16th Head Priest of Honkoku-ji. Jojakko-ji’s website offers a step-by-step primer on the temple.


Niomon gate

Big roots at Jojakko-ji

Great roots

Memorial stone

Memorial stone

Mossy hillock

Mossy hillside

Fall color

Although the maples at Jojakko-ji were a week or two shy of peak color, there was still plenty to be seen


Tahoto (two-storied) Pagoda

Kyoto in the distance

Atop Jojakko-ji – Kyoto in the distance




Stone figures

Mossy hillock

Moss and maples

It took a while for me to find the next temple. Numerous pedestrian paths clogged with tourists wind through hills, houses, shops and an intimidating bamboo forest. I passed this bamboo gate just above the bamboo forest.

Gate in Sagano area

Bamboo gate

Fortunately, I made it to Tenryu-ji, Temple of the Heavenly Dragon, before dusk settled in. The entrance was understated. Once inside, I found an animated group pitching coins into a pond, trying to land the offerings in the lap of a frog atop a frog.

Tossing coins for good luck

Good luck!

Catching coins

Pond with frogs and yen

Further inside the complex, I saw people strolling along a covered walkway that connected the various temple buildings. I couldn’t for the life of me find my way inside.



Rounding yet another aged temple building, I beheld Sogenchi Garden.

Sogen Garden

Sogenchi Garden

The garden was beautiful – and famous. I’d seen it in many Japanese landscape books. Turns out it is quite old. It was designed in the 14th century by Musou Soseki. It was the first Special Historical Scenic Area named by the Japanese government and has since been recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. The main hall was located right next to the garden.

Main temple

Main Hall

The current main hall was built in the late 19th century. Over the years, the temple has been struck by fire 8 times, most recently in 1864. Set square against the pond, it offered great views of the garden. But I still couldn’t find a way in.

Sogen Garden

Maples across the pond

Sogen Garden

Great stone work

Sogen Garden

Famous red pine reaching across the water

Tenryu-ji has taken advantage of the Internet. They have a website and a twitter feed that features great photos of the garden throughout the year – it’s worth a visit.

Sogen Garden

Sogenchi garden and Main Hall

I left Tenryu-ji happy to have seen the garden, but puzzled at having missed the entrance to the temple buildings. As I headed toward Togetsu-kyo Bridge, Arashiyama’s tourist hub, I found more and more tourists. I headed against traffic for about half an hour before I saw the entrance to the temple. Turns the garden entrance and temple entrances are at opposite ends of the complex. Out front, I discovered one of my favorite stone arrangements.

Stone garden at temple entrance

Stone garden in front of Tenryu-ji

Once inside, I traversed the covered walkway and peered inside the temple buildings. Having finally seen the place inside and out, I spent my remaining time appreciating the garden.

Sogen Garden

Sogenchi garden from the main temple hall

So ended my two-day visit to Kyoto’s gardens. The next day I woke early to help with the setup at Taikan-ten. Before returning to my hotel in Otsu, I walked through downtown Kyoto and passed, again, the winding streets below Kiyomizu-dera where I found a shrine illuminated by scores of lanterns.

Yasaaka Shrine

Yasaaka Shrine

Thanks for visiting Kyoto with me. I will return to the regularly scheduled bonsai blogging next week. Happy New Year!


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