Having arrived in Kyoto via bullet train (and escaping the big storm lashing Yokohama in the process), Ryan and I successfully navigated our way to the hotel from the train station on foot, awkwardly managed to check ourselves in and stow our luggage, and then pretty much immediately headed out again, our main mission for the day being a trip up Kyoto Tower.
However, Kyoto is of course an ancient city, in fact it was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, and is host to many cultural wonders that make up old Japan. Thus it wasn’t that much of a surprise to almost immediately stumble across the magnificient Shosei-en Japanese garden along our way.
Shosei-en is a garden that belongs to Higashi-Hongan-ji, the big temple of the Shingon school of Buddhism just north of Kyoto station. Declared a National Historic Site in 1938, the garden is said to have belonged to the residence of the son of tennō Saga and was built in the early Heian period (794-1185). Although fires have razed the garden a couple of times throughout history, most is of it has been restored, and in fact, the pond most likely remains from the original design.
The garden we see today, was laid out in 1641 after the shogun Tokugawa donated the land to the Hongan-ji. The garden design was probably realized by the intellectual Ichikawa Jozan and artist, tea master and aristocrat Kobori Enshu,
This tranquil garden features two tea houses, loads of cherry trees, and two distinctive bridges (one of Chinese design), all laid out to highlight the peaceful water lily covered pond that is the centerpiece of the garden.
An absolute gem of a quiet space in the middle of a rather big and bustling city!
(Oh, and in case you were wondering – their white grape Minute Maid has actual chunks of grape in it. Which wasn’t a particularly nice taste discovery for me!)