Destination: 詩仙堂 Shisendō

Impression: Shisendō, a small hermitage hidden from view by rows of camelia trees, is one of the great gems of the Ichijōji area. Built in the 1600s by a retired, unmarried scholar and then donated at his death, Shisendō remains one of the great Soto Zen temples of Kyoto. There is a small pathway leading up to the temple through a miniature bamboo grove. What struck me most is the smell of the incense, and how it has permeated the entire site. It was very relaxing to merely stand there, taking in the view, as the aromas filled my lungs.

The garden is quite lovely and varied, and even with so many tourists around, it still felt quiet and relaxing. There is a working sōzu, the clacking bamboo fountain which serves as a Japanese scarecrow, as well as a small waterfall. The maple trees boughs hang quite low, like great red parousels in autumn. It really was gorgeous.

Best Season: Fall and Spring.

History: Shisendō was built by a landscape architect and scholar by the name of Jōzan Ishikawa in 1641. Jōzan was a son of a samurai family in Mikawa Province, and was one of Ieyasu Tokugawa's personal attendants for many years. After retiring from service, he moved to Kyoto and built Shisendō as a hermitage. It is named after the thirty-six classical poets he selected and displayed in the main room, whose portraits can still be seen today. 
Jōzan was a master of Chinese poems and Reisho, a type of calligraphy. He also helped bring the art of Sencha to Japan, a type of green tea. Over forty years after his death, a Shingon priest was assigned to the hold the ownership of the villa, and then, in 1743, the prince Kan-in-no-Miya assigned a zen nun to the post. Every since that time, all of the head nuns or priests have all belonged to the Soto Zen group. It is actually listed as one of the temples under the head temple of Soto Zen, Eiheiji, founded by Dogen. 

27 Monguchichō
, Ichijōji, Kyōto
Hours & Admission:
9:00~17:00, closed May 23
Adults: 500 yen, Students: 400, Children: 200 yen


(Please view the rest of these photos on my Flickr Stream!)