Treasures and Gardens



The Garden of Bolders

Sazareishi-no-niwa, or the Garden of Boulders, is the main garden of Shunkōin temple. The name was derived from many boulders, or sazareishi, in the garden, and those bolders represent the islands of Ise Bay. The Garden of Bolders is prominent because the theme is the Great Shrine of Ise and this garden actually houses a shrine and forest, which enshrine two most important Shintō deities, Amaterasu-ōmikami (a sun goddess) and Toyouke-no-ōmikami (a goddess of agriculture).

The Forest of Naikū and Shrine of Gekū at Shunkōin

There is no shrine for Amaterasu-ōmikami in the Garden of Bolders, or Sazareishi-no-niwa. However, a forest is considerd a sacred place in Shintoism. Thus, Amaterasu-ōmikami is enshrined at the Forest of Naikū, and Toyouki-no-ōmikami is enshrined at the Shrine of Gekū.

There are two reason why this Zen Buddhist temple has the garden, whose theme is the Great Shrine of Ise, which is the head shrine of all Shintō shrines in Japan. The one is that the patron of Shunkōin in the 17th century, Noriyuki Ishikawa, ruled Ise-Kameyama, in present-day Mie Prefecture, and was also an enthusiastic worshipper of the Great Shrine of Ise. The other is that it is common to see Buddhist and Shintō objects enshrined at the same place in Japan because until the Meiji period (in the late 19th and early 20th century), it was a popular belief in Japan that Shintō deities are various forms of the Buddha that existed to save people.

The Garden of Bolders

The Great Shrine of Ise, or Ise Jingū is the foremost Shintō shrine because this shrine is the head shrine of all Shinō shrines in Japan and mainly enshrines two prominent deities in Shintoism, Amaterasu-ōmikami and Toyouke-no-ōmikami. The Great Shrine of Ise is located in Mie Prefecture and believed to be established about 2000 years ago. The shrine is composed of two main shrines and 125 subsidiary shrines. One of the two main shrine is Naikū, or the Inner Shrine and the other is Gekū, or the Outer Shrine.

  • Naikū, or the Inner Shrine, was established to enshrine Amaterasu-ōmikami around 2000 years ago. Amaterasu-ōmikami is a sun goddess of the Japanese mythology and the ancestral goddess of the Japanese imperial family, or Tennō-ke.

  • Gekū, or the Outer Shrine, was established to enshrine Toyouke-no-ōmikami around 1500 years ago. Toyouke-no-ōmikami is a goddess of agriculture and industry and produce food for Amaterasu-ōmikami.


The Garden of Tokiwa

Tokiwa-no-niwa, or the Garden of Tokiwa, is the oldest part of Shunkōin and was built in the late 16th century. This garden is in a shakkei style, or borrowed scenary style. The principle of Shakkei is using a surrounding landscape as a part of a garden. The name, Garden of Tokiwa, is derived from using the landscape of Tokiwa, the northwest part of Kyoto, as a shakkei, or borrowed scenary, of this garden.

Crane and Turtle

This garden has another name, Tsurukame-no-niwa, or the Garden of a Crane and Turtle. Tsuru is a crane, and kame is a turtle in Japanese. A stone lantern next to an old well in the garden represents a standing crane. And, a huge stone structure in the center of the garden represents a sea turtle. In Japan or East Asia, a turtle and crane are the symbols of longevity. Thus, a pair of a crane and turtle is often used a subject of patintings or statue in Japan, like this garden.

The Garden of Tokiwa

From Left to Right
Tsukubai, or a washbasin for tea ceremonies, the Kuromoji Gate, and the old wall

Flowers at Shunkōin

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