Sanbō-in Garden in Daigo-ji, Kyoto.


Although it was winter when we visited the garden of Sanbō-in, it was obvious that a warmer climate, such as spring or autumn, would have been a better time to visit. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful and peaceful garden with small nooks and crannies from which to enjoy the calm and serenity of the moment.

One can almost imagine what it was like during Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉, February 2, 1536 or March 26, 1537 – September 18, 1598) cherry viewing parties with his warlords and family. It is said that over a 1000 people attended these events, all clad in their traditional samurai attire. 

It was a beautiful place, full of historical magic and mystery.

Sanbō-in temple, the residence of the archbishops of Daigoji Temple, was built in 1115, but the present buildings were reconstructed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1598. Its Karamon and Omote-Shoin, from which you can see the whole view of the garden, were designated as national treasures, while the most of the other surrounding buildings are merely important cultural assets. The garden, which was designed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi himself and represents the Momoyama period, is designated as a special historic spot and a place of particular scenic beauty within Japan, reminding us of Hideyoshi’s glory.

Aoi-matsuri is one of the three most important festivals of Kyoto, which include Gion-matsuri and Jidai-matsuri. A depiction of a parade from Shimogamo Shrine to Kamigamo Shrine during the festival is painted on the sliding screens of Aoi-no-ma, an important cultural asset.

The Omote-Shoin, as mentioned before, is a national treasure; there are lower, middle, and upper rooms in the building, and the lower floor can be used as a Noh stage when the tatami mats are removed. The middle and upper rooms are one-step higher than the lower room, to be able to see the performance below.

The Hondo, or main building, is an important cultural asset with the principal image of Mirokubosatsu (Maitreya bodhisattva) and was carved by Kaikei and Unkei, and therefore the Hondo Hall is also known as Mirokudo. There are two more statues on both sides, as well as a goma-dan, an altar used for holy fire, located in Gomado Hall behind Hondo Hall.

In the gardens  of Sanbō-in, there is an island known as Kameshima (Kame being the Japanese word for turtle). Kameshima Island is covered with Japanese white pine trees with large trunks that look like tortoise shells. One pine tree is said to be older than 600 years old. It represents the quietness of a tortoise. 

Tsurushima is an island located west of Kameshima. The trees are also Japanese white pine, and the stone bridge on the left represents the neck of a crane. It represents the dynamism of a crane that is about to take off; Tsuru, in Japanese, means crane.

There is also a tea room in the southeast part of the Sanbō-in garden. Usually the door of a Japanese tea room is a crawl-through doorway, but the doorway of Chinryutei is a walk-through doorway so guests can enter and exit the room without bending down. There are three rooms in Chinryutei; the upper room, middle room, and preparation room, from south to north. Rare trees such as palms and chestnut trees are used for the columns.

Other than the above-mentioned buildings, there are many more beautiful buildings and cultural assets in Sanbō-in. Not only the beautiful artwork inside the buildings, but also the peaceful of tranquility of the gardens will no doubt set your mind at ease.

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