Enko-ji Temple

(圓光寺)
#enkoji #northernhigashiyama

The hidden garden

Something that I always recommend in Japan is to get lost between visits from a temple to a temple. You can always find a hidden place or a secret spot. Today was one of those days that you get lost on purpose. I was walking from Shugaku-in Imperial villa to Shisen-do Temple in the east mountain of Kyoto when I saw it. At first sight it was a normal temple gate. But I was charmed by it. It had something special that moved me to enter the temple.


This temple belongs to the Rinzai School. This school is one of the three sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism. We know this thanks to the garden. Usually in these temples we will find a big garden. It shows us the importance of nature in this sect. The garden in this temple is the main reason of visiting it. A monk at the ticket gate told me that I must come at least four times a year to fully enjoy it, once every different season.
I also found a Suikinkutsu, which literally means water koto cave. It’s a type of Japanese garden ornament that produces a sound similar to a bell or a Japanese zither called koto. It’s a relaxing sound. In Enco-ji Temple you can hear this Suikinkutsu from the veranda while you are having a break. It was perfectly located for being fully enjoyed. While you meditate, in the seated meditation pose, you can understand the philosophy of the Rinzai Sect and enjoy nature.


After finishing the garden we come to a cemetery and some steps that are heading to a small hill. If you go up the hill, you will have a stunning view of the city. I could be there forever just looking at the city of Kyoto. Only one thing I missed was a pair of binoculars. Next time I will bring it with me.


Then, if you go to the exit, you will find a small bamboo grove. It is not like the one in Arashiyama that are on both sides of the path. The bamboos were in the middle of the path so, you could even hug them. It was more natural, less man made.
There is also a museum where you can find some text used long time ago when the temple was built in the Tokugawa period. In front of the museum, there is a Japanese rock garden that reminds us of Ryoan-ji Temple. This kind of garden is totally different from the first one that I have described at the beginning of the text. This garden is a Karesansui or dry landscape garden. Enko-ji Temple rock garden shows us different layers of sand that are raked representing ripples on the water. Also the rocks than usually in other temples are of a small size, In Enko-ji were long and thin inserted in the sand giving some kind of verticality.
I didn’t expect to find such a wonderful temple here. I know that Higashiyama Mountain has one temple every 5 meters, but this one will always be in my head. And I will come back in November to see the red colors of the Japanese Autumn in the Enko-ji Temple


Photo: Roxana Russo, Report: Javier Azana