We dragged ourselves out of this relaxing Kacho-den Hall to the next building, Kagosho, connected by narrow wooden walkways. It has a few tatami-matted rooms separated by “fusuma”, sliding doors. At one end of this hall is a typical image; a framed view of a low branching either a maple or cherry with young shoots emerging. The contrast of the darkened interior by dark wood refracted exterior light and the lime green leaves of the tree created a delightful view. “Fusuma” walls were painted with pines and birds. The whole room was sparsely decorated with items. This is something that I liked; uncluttered, simplicity at its best. The building has a veranda on all three sides, and with a great view. I loved the idea of a veranda surrounded by nature. The “Ryujin-no Ike”, Dragon Heart’s Pond, lies just beside on one side. A little stream gently flows by. Through another narrow wooden corridor, we passed an almost rectangular raised “tsukubai”, stone water basin. This one has a name, Ichimonji Chozubachi – symbolized valiance. It is said to have been donated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Momoyama Period [1573- 1603].
The Shidoko-do Hall houses the temple’s main objects of worship, two paintings – a Mandala (not commonly displayed) and a replica drawing of Fudo Myo-o, a fearsome deity of wisdom who is surrounded by flames and holds a sword. The view of Kogosho and the “Ryujin-no Ike”, Dragon Heart’s Pond, with the backdrop of the Higashiyama Mountains is enchanting. This picture is complete with a “tsukiyama”, artificial hill, a thirteen-story stone pagoda, pond and mindfully selected plants – combines palms, pines, shrubs, evergreens and deciduous trees, flowering plants, etc. A large stone, “Koryu-no-hashi” in the pond is supposed to remind one of the back of a dragon bathing in the pond. A stone bridge connected the two banks. On the right of the pond, is the Garden of Omori Yuhi, along the slopes. This is one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens that I had seen that effectively utilizes its surrounding natural beauty.
Behind the pond, on the slopes is the Garden of Kirishima, planted with “Kirishima”, azaleas. A path leads towards the barely visible tea house, Kobun-tei. This is a strolling garden with paths meandering through. The next building is the Shinden. A large palanquin with the imperial chrysanthemum crest on it was displayed. Behind, on the white “fusuma” walls were painted with storks amongst pines and cherry trees. In another room is a large painting of a beech and pine tree by Sumi Yoshi. In the courtyard, there is a great view of one of the ancient camphor trees.
Shōren-in Temple had been a wonderful experience. Perhaps its original design as an imperial palace; three different but wonderfully landscaped gardens utilising the natural surrounding hills or perhaps there were few distractions, people. This is now one of my favourite places.