Kyoto was founded in 794 by Emperor Kammu. When Kyoto celebrated the eleven hundredth anniversary of its establishment it was already the third decade of the Meiji era. In part to commemorate the event and in part to console its citizens for the removal of the imperial family to Tokyo, the local government decided to build a large Shinto shrine devoted to this early emperor. The shrine structure itself was to be based upon the design of the Heian period Hall of State, the Chodo-in, built by Kammu as part of the imperial palace grounds and was to be built in the spirit of Heian architecture. This proved difficult, however. Despite the building being scaled down by one-third, incomplete knowledge of the original plans made construction of an exact replica impossible. But the great difficulty lay with a fundamental transformation of function from secular (a hall of state) to sacred (a Shinto shrine), in terms of the building, and from the sacred garden of the Heian period in which all elements were encoded with significance in a Buddhist cosmology to that of an Edo/Meiji secular garden within which a public could walk after worshipping at the shrine.1
Ogawa Jihei developed a rather romantic, naturalistic design with a large palette of plants -- some imported from Europe -- designed to provide visual interest in all seasons. The garden is quite extensive, covering about five acres. A visitor begins on the west end of the garden passing first through an area dominated by willows and flowering cherries. The planting shifts as one moves around the sequence of water features that enfold the shrine proper. In the east sawatari-ishi, or stepping stones, meander across the water to a tiny island. These stones inscribe a visual footnote in local history as they were also the foundation stones for the piers of the Gojo Bridge prior it its reconstruction during Meiji. The final element and most prominent garden feature is the Taihei-kaku, a covered bridge spanning the south section of the pond. The style shows some Chinese influence and is reminiscent of Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji, the Gold and Silver Pavilions. The extension of this walking surface over the water also refers to Heian period pond gardens.
While the garden at Heian Shrine is hardly successful as a re-creation of the Heian period garden, it marks the beginning of a garden-building boom in the Nanzenji area. To the list of villas described above, one might add the Nomura Residence, Seifuso and Tofukuji.
1. Nietschke, p. 213. This analysis presupposes a sacred/secular dualism that may not yet have been part of the Meiji mental landscape. Indeed the emperor was both divine and secular until the close of World War II. It would be interesting to investigate to what extent this transformation of secular to sacred and vice versa was actually troubling to the Meiji people of Kyoto. What was the confluence of forces through which the necessarily interdependent ideas of 'public' and 'private' arose?
Itoh Teiji. Space and Illusion. Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1973, p. 40.
Kuck, Loraine. World of the Japanese Garden: From Chinese origins to modern landscape art. Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1968, p. 248-251.
Mori Osamu. Teien Shohakka. Tokyo: Tokyo-do, 1993, p. 316.
Nietschke, Gunter. Japanese Gardens: Right angle and natural form. Cologne: Taschen, 1993, p. 213-216.
Treib, Marc and Herman, Ron. Guide to the Gardens of Kyoto. Tokyo: Shufunotomo, 1980, p. 153-154. Other Web Sites CLIP Archive of Contemporary Landscape Inquiry Project - Includes sever
Sunlight sparkles on the dancing water
Spring warms the garden wall
Plum buds smile like red lips,
But the gate-willow has not yet
Grown her eyebrows.