The Horai garden at Daichiji is maintained by Shimizu Toshiharu, a priest who teaches social studies at nearby Shirayama Middle School. His wife is usually the one to show people around, though. As one walks along the corridors to the viewing pavilion, two things are striking: the strong smell of cypress (hinoki) and an odd plunk....plunk....plunk....coming from the loudspeakers attached to the ceiling. The former is from recent construction work. On February 2, 1993, a particularly heavy snow caused the roof of the main hall to cave in. The building has since been entirely rebuilt in cypress to the precise dimensions of the original. The latter, an acoustic addition to the viewing experience, is an amplified recording of water dropping into a suikinkutsu echo chamber. The original concept of the garden was also an acoustic one. The smooth, soft sound of the wind blowing through the pines growing on the site in the 17th century was a reminder of the sea and islands depicted in the garden.
The walk along the corridor is short and one soon arrives at Horai Teien. A massing of shaped green azaleas set against the natural (though constructed) hillside behind and white sand below is the primary feature of the garden. Marc Treib sees the Horai garden as an example of the juxtaposed modes of formality (shin, gyo, so) that "have served as a generative force behind much of Japanese art and environmental design." The sheared okarikomi shrubs suggest a treasure ship being tossed among undulating waves of the sea. Azalea cubes and spheres form the treasure in the ship piled around the almost invisible stones that are said to represent the seven gods of fortune. To the right of the ship's prow is a separate rounded mass of azalea with a protruding stone forming a turtle-shaped kameshima beneath the eaves of the building. Behind the kameshima, running perpendicular to the viewing platform and providing a geometric counterpoint to the waves is a line of hinoki(cypress). In the foreground below the viewing pavilion's steps, is a round, flattened stone flanked by two more small azaleas. This is meant to provide a place for zazen meditation while viewing the garden.
The purplish-brown of winter foliage gives way to a bright floral display from late May to mid June. This becomes lush green foliage by August and September. In autumn, the momiji maple trees on the hillside behind burst into flame.
The garden was built in the early decades after the Tokugawa government restored peace and stability at the beginning of the 17th century. It is unclear, however, precisely when the garden was constructed. The current pamphlet and interpretive signs both claim Kobori Enshu (1579-1647) himself designed the garden in the late 1620's. This is certainly possible, but, like many of the gardens with which Enshu is credited, his connection here is debatable. The temple was still in ruins during Enshu's lifetime and it seems unlikely the garden would have been built before the temple buildings were restored in. This did not occur until twenty years after Enshu's death. In fact, a number of references refer to his grandson being responsible for this garden. Enshu's fame as a designer and arbiter of taste was so profound, it was not unusual for successive generations of designers to adopt his name, thereby lending legitimacy to their work.
The juxtaposition of an okarikomi azalea garden sandwiched between temple buildings and a hillside is not unique to this garden. The garden at Raikyuji temple i
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.