kyoto: kodai-ji

04Jul06

Kodai-ji temple was founded in 1605 by Kita-no-Mandokoro (popularly known as Nene), the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in memory of her late husband. It was heavily financed by Tokugawa Ieyasu, “Hideyoshi’s chief vassal and later Shogun of Japan” (from the pamphlet). While the provenance of Kodai-ji is interesting, its most striking aspect is its beautiful gardens, gardens that are so extensive that the temple buildings themselves seem a bit displaced in grandeur. More at home in these gardens are Kodai-ji’s four famous teahouses, two of which were designed by Sen-no-Rikyu, the famous teamaster who is credited with establishing the Japanese tea ceremony as it’s known today. The first of the teahouses that you walk past at Kodai-ji is the lovely Onigawara-seki, pictured above.

Since Kodai-ji is currently a Rinzai sect Zen temple, it cannot be without its sand garden. Though I haven’t seen it at night, I’m sure that moonlight viewing is best.

This is the Kaisan-do, which is dedicated to the memory of Sanko Joeki, Kodai-ji’s founding priest. According to the pamphlet, “The ceiling in the front part of the building originally belonged to Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s private ship; the colored ceiling to the center was constructed of materials from Kita-no-Mandokoro’s court carriage.” I’m not sure whether or not the ceiling that Jess and were looking at belonged to the carriage or the ship, but the circular flying white dragon motif was pretty spectacular.

This is the section of the Garyoro, or “Reclining Dragon Corridor,” that crosses the pond behind the Kaisan-do. The Garyoro connects the Kaisan-do with the Otama-ya, and its name stems from its resemblance to a reclining dragon.

The Otama-ya (or “Sanctuary”) is the memorial hall in which Toyotomi HIdeyoshi and Kita-no-Mandokoro are enshrined. Their wooden images can be seen at the rear of the hall, one on each side of an intricately lacquered shrine. This view of the roof joints should give some idea of the intricate detail that has gone into the construction of the Otama-ya.

This is the Kasa-tei (just think “Casa Tea”), designed by Sen-no-Rikyu.

A closer view of Kasa-tei’s thatched roof.

This rare two-story teahouse, also designed by Sen-no-Rikyu, is known as the Shigure-tei. The Shigure-tei and Kasa-tei are connected by an outside corridor.

Kodai-ji is located in the Higashiyama, or ‘Eastern Mountain,’ section of Kyoto. As such, it has some pretty steep slopes. By the time you finish your tour at the Rikyu-designed teahouses, you’ll have gained quite a bit of elevation. You can work off your elevation by walking downhill through this beautiful bamboo grove.

Just as Jess and I were leaving the temple grounds, we spotted this great peach tile. It’s the only one I’ve seen in all of Japan.

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