Sunday, September 24, 2023

Chikurin-in Temple Gunpoen Garden


The Gunpoen Garden at Chikurin-in Temple in Yoshino is, along with one of the gardens at Taimadera and the one at Jikoin, classed as one of the Three Great Gardens of Yamato, and while having an intriguing history is hardly known at all.

Yoshino, in the mountains of southern Nara, is and was a centre of Shugendo, the mountain-worshipping cult, but is now most famous for its cherry blossoms, although the Shugendo sites are part of a World Heritage Site.

The small temple of Chikurin-in is now somewhat overshadowed by its lodgings facility, technically a Shukubo, but in essence a ryokan.

Historically the temple was a lodging for Shugendo pilgrims, and it is said many very famous guests have stayed here, including Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Emperor Hirohito.

The temple claims to have been founded by Prince Shotoku which would mean late 6th or early 7th century and it was called  Chinzan Dera. A couple of centuries later Kukai visited and changed its name to Josen-ji.

In 1385 it was renamed Chikurin-in, and in the late 16th century was moved to its current location.

The garden, a stroll-type with a large pond, is said to have been originally designed by Sen no Rikyu, probably the most famous tea master of all, although one of his most important students, the renowned general Yusai Hosokawa, is thought to have done further work on the garden.

What is often mentioned in reference to the garden here is that several cherry trees play a prominent part in the design and that this is quite rare in standard Japanese garden design. When I visited in November, the cherry trees were bare but a few maples were in full colour.

A path leads up to high ground above the garden where there is an archery ground and great views over the Yoshino mountains, the grand Kinpusenji Temple, and the rest of the  town.

The temple was closed down in 1874 with the shiunbutsu bunri edicts but re-opened later as a Tendai sect temple. In 1948 it became a Shingon temple.

Chikurin-in is situated at roughly the boundary between the Naka Senbon area and the Kami Senbon area.

I'm sure that when the cherries are blossoming in the late Spring then the garden is delightful, but a glorious Autumn day was just fine for me. I was the only person in the garden.

1 comment:

  1. I visited the garden while staying in Yoshino in June 2007. I couldn't afford the ryokan (I stayed at a temple serving as a youth hostel), but it was only ¥300 to see the garden. I was the only one there at the time, and was pleasantly surprised to learn the groundskeeper spoke very good English.