Kyoto Highlights (Part II), Honshu Island, Japan (2019)

A traditional tea ceremony with centuries-old creamics and tea cups performed by the head monk of Kennin-ji Temple – believed to be the olded Zen Buddhist temple in Japan -- Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

A traditional tea ceremony with centuries-old creamics and tea cups performed by the head monk of Kennin-ji Temple – believed to be the olded Zen Buddhist temple in Japan — Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our second day in Kyoto, Japan, we began with a meeting with the head monk of Kennin-ji Temple who explained the history of the temple who taught us how to meditate and then led us through a formal tea ceremony with tea cups that were several hundred years old and examples of the best ceramics artisanship in Japan during that period.  Kennin-ji Temple is believed to be the oldest Zen Buddhist temple in Japan, dating back to the 13th century (the original temple buildings, like much of Kyoto, were destroyed by fire).  At present, there are three branches of Zen in Japan – the Rinzai, Soutou and Oubaku schools.  Kennin-ji belongs to the Rinzai tradition. The temple was founded in 1202 by the priest Yousai (1141-1215), the Buddhist monk who introduced both Zen Buddhism and tea cultivation to Japan upon returning from study trips to China.  The head monk talked with us about Zen Buddhism and gave us insights into an old Japanese Zen saying, “sou iu mono do” (“that’s how things are”) – an excellent perspective for dealing with the vicissitudes of life, both the ups and downs.  We then had the opportunity for an extensive tour of the temple.

 

Historic tea ceremony tea pot and cups at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Historic tea ceremony tea pot and cups at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Zen Buddhism heavily emphasizes meditation or zazen.  Zen evolved into much more than simply a philosophy, and came to permeate the arts including the tea ceremony, whose practitioners pursued an imperfect, rustic beauty.  It was quickly patronized by aristocrats and the warrior class, including the ruthless 16th-century shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who commissioned the tea room found on the temple grounds.” — http://www.jnto.go.jp/ph/spot-activity/kansai/kyoto/kenninji-temple/

 

The small garden outside the tea room where we had a formal tea ceremony at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The small garden outside the tea room where we had a formal tea ceremony at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Tea plants (camellia sinensis) on the grounds of Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Tea plants (camellia sinensis) on the grounds of Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kennin-ji is a historic Zen Buddhist temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan, near Gion and is considered to be one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan or "five most important Zen temples of Kyoto", Honshu Island, Japan----

Kennin-ji is a historic Zen Buddhist temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan, near Gion and is considered to be one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan or “five most important Zen temples of Kyoto”, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Buddha and sacred objects, under the ceiling mural of twin dragons, at the Main Hall, Kenninji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Buddha and sacred objects, under the ceiling mural of twin dragons, at the Main Hall, Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The traditional Japanese rock garden at Kenninji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan, is regarded as one of the finest in the country

The traditional Japanese rock garden at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan, is regarded as one of the finest in the country

 

Kennin-ji Temple is filled with important works of art and design which include paintings, sculptures, and the Zen garden, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Kennin-ji Temple is filled with important works of art and design which include paintings, sculptures, and the Zen garden, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After lunch in the Gion district, we met with one of Kyoto’s leading Tatami (mat) artisans, Mitsuru Yokoyama, who gave us a tour of his studio and explained the art of making tatami, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

After lunch in the Gion district, we met with one of Kyoto’s leading Tatami (mat) artisans, Mitsuru Yokoyama, who gave us a tour of his studio and explained the art of making tatami, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A selection of tatami making tools in the studio of Mitsuru Yokoyama, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan [see www.yokoyamatatami.com]

A selection of tatami making tools in the studio of Mitsuru Yokoyama, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan [see http://www.yokoyamatatami.com]

At Ryogen-in Zen Buddhist Temple, Yokoyama led us on a tour of the temple, where we saw its five gardens, including Totekiko, considered both rare and quite famous, being the smallest stone garden in Japan; Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Mitsuru Yokoyama, the tatami artisan, supplied the tatami mats for the recent renovations at Ryogen-in Zen Buddhist Temple, led us on a tour of the temple, where we saw its five gardens, including Totekiko, considered both rare and quite famous, being the smallest stone garden in Japan; Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Totekiko, the inner rock garden at Ryogen-in Zen Buddhist Temple, is the smallest rare stone garden in Japan.  The main point of the garden is the sandy ripples of the stones.  The garden shows the truth that the stronger the power of a stone thrown into water is, the larger the ripple are.

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Shrines, Temples and Rock Gardens, Kyoto, Japan

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha, Kyoto, Japan

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Although ravaged by wars, fires, and earthquakes during its eleven centuries as the imperial capital, Kyoto was spared from much of the destruction of World War II.  It was removed from the atomic bomb target list (which it had headed) by the personal intervention of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, as Stimson wanted to save this cultural center which he knew from his honeymoon and later diplomatic visits…  With its 2,000 religious places – 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens and architecture intact – it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan.” — Wikipedia

 

The pavilion is part of a temple that is formally named Rokuon-ji Temple, but commonly called Kinkaku-ji Temple or Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan

The pavilion is part of a temple that is formally named Rokuon-ji Temple, but commonly called Kinkaku-ji Temple or Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan

 

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha.  The pavilion is part of a temple that is formally named Rokuon-ji Temple, but commonly called Kinkaku-ji Temple or Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Rokuon-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple, in the Shokokuji School of the Rinzai Sect.  The garden and its buildings, centered on the Golden Pavilion, were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world.  The villa also functioned as an official guesthouse, welcoming the Emperor and other members of the nobility.

 

Two ducks enjoying the Sakura shaded pond in front of the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

Two ducks enjoying the Sakura shaded pond in front of the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

 

Pink and white Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) in the garden of the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

Pink and white Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) in the garden of the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

 

Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto is famed for its Zen garden of 15 irregularly places rocks on raked white gravel, representing islands in an ocean or some say (after a few too many cups of warm saké), ‘a tiger carrying her cubs across the water’.  It is designed so always at least one of rocks is hidden from the view from any vantage point.  It is a supreme art work and the best Zen temple in Kyoto, if not in Japan.

 

Japan_s most famous zen garden, the Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple, viewed from Hojo (the building that used be the head priest_s residence), Kyoto, Japan; 14 of the 15 rocks in the g

Japan’s most famous zen garden, the Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple, viewed from Hojo (the building that used be the head priest’s residence), Kyoto, Japan; at least one of the 15 rocks in the garden are hidden from view from any vantage point

 

Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season is a special time of the year to visit the Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season is a special time of the year to visit the Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

 

The garden of Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

The garden of Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

 

We were the only guests at our guide_s “secret garden” in the heart of Kyoto, Japan; similar to the world-famous Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple (which is overflowing with tourists f

We were the only guests at our guide’s “secret garden” in the heart of Kyoto, Japan; similar to the world-famous Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple (which is overflowing with tourists from around the world), it was set in a Zen Buddhist Temple whose location I must keep secret…