Let's Go! Gardens of Japan Part III

In this our final look at the gardens of Tokyo and Kyoto, we shall stroll around three Kyoto favorites - Toji Temple, Sanjusangen-do and  Nijo Castle.

First up is the Toji Temple a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Mt. Fuji as seen from the bullet train on our way from Tokyo to Kyoto, just a 2-1/2 hour trip.

 After a quick train trip, we found ourselves exploring right away. We were presented tickets for the wonderful Toji Temple from our dear friend Kikuchi-san; we were lucky to see it.

Kondo Hall, inside were many beautiful Buddha sculptures, unfortunately (or for good reason), you cannot take photos of the interior so we'll have to use our imagination.

The Kondo Hall, one of Toji's original structures, is the temple's main hall and largest building. Destroyed by a large fire in 1486, the building was reconstructed in the early Edo Period in a contemporary architecture style and houses Toji's main object of worship, a large wooden statue of the Yakushi Buddha, flanked by his two attendants, the Nikko and Gakko Bodhisattvas.

The gardens are just lovely, especially in the spring. The azaleas are in bloom. For the record, it was 70-plus degrees the day we visited in mid-April.

Lots of school kids in uniforms. All very polite and sweet. They all giggled at David and me, which we found quite endearing.

It was, after all, blossom time. How lucky were we?

More beautiful blossoms at the end of their spectacular show.

Kondo Hall again, the main entrance.

And here she is: the Five-storied Pagoda, a national treasure from the Edo period. The five-storied pagoda is so famous that it reminds all Japanese of Kyoto and Toji. It is the tallest pagoda in Japan at 187 feet. It was built by Kobo-daishi in 826 and burned down four times after being struck by lightning. The present pagoda was built by the third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu in 1644. Very cool.

Some gardeners tending to the peony gardens.

Hmm...a skirt? A launching pad? Anyone?

And a departing shot, the quintessential blossoms with what is arguably the prettiest city symbol around. What a postcard, don't you think? Spectacular and magic.

Now, on to two final gardens. The next is a quick trip to the Sanjusangen-do temple, otherwise known as the Temple of the 1,001 Golden Buddhas. Yes, there really are, each of course hand-carved from Japanese cypress. Although you cannot take photos, here's a link that shows a bit of what to expect.

 Sanjusangen-do: Although more temple-ish than garden-ish, it is worth exploring.

 The Kitsune - here's what Wiki says about these foxes guarding the entrance to the Inari shrines:

Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

Foxes and human beings lived close together in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox's supernatural significance. The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make offerings to them as to a deity.

 The gardens were sweet, too. 

 David at the Inari shrine. I guess he's full of good luck and fortune! 

I don't seem to have a photo of it, but the hall housing the 1,001 Buddhas is said to be the longest wooden structure in Japan at 120 meters in length.

More lovely gardens. I tell you, the Japanese know gardening.

OK, on to our final destination - a castle and its gardens. This is the Nijo Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 This Edo period castle was originally built in 1603 as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyuasu. This is the Ninomaru Palace.

Again, the Ninomaru Palace.

I wonder how old this tree is. Very Jurassic looking and beautiful, too.

 Around the garden grounds.

The architecture and natural world blend together very thoughtfully. You can just see the modern city of Kyoto behind. It's a large city, after all.

 NOTE: One of David's favorite photos!

 The main living area (I think). Again, no photos allowed inside....very beautifully painted, the walls had garden scenes painted and the floors are nightingale - they squeak so that no one can sneak up on you!

 The central pond area; so very elegant. Part of the Ninomaru Gardens.

 What about those supports? Wow, that's pretty cool. 

 I think this was once an orchard area. The wildest, wooliest thing I saw in Japan. 

 See, a moat! It really is a castle.

 In my first post about the gardens of Japan I mentioned some crazy pruning. How about these Dr. Seussian trees? Crazy! 

Although there was another temple we visited, Kiyomizu Temple which I will not cover here and literally dozens of others which we just did not have the time to explore, we will end our tour here. Thus, this concludes our tour of a few wonderful Gardens of Japan. I will definitely go back and explore more some day. For my first trip I must say that I was blown away by the hospitality, beauty, elegance and grace of the Japanese people and their amazing country full of history and traditions. It is such a change from Western thought and style and it certainly deserves many more visits.

 Speaking of gardens, these are the flowers from our dear friend Shimazaki-san's garden that he presented to us as we left the wonderful city of Tokyo for home.

 So lovely, they really brightened our travels.

 Left to right: Pinson-san, Kikuchi-san and Shimazaki-san having some laughs on our last night in Japan. Thank you, gentlemen, for a wonderful introduction to Japan--I will never forget it. 

Sayonara for now!


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