The Retired Samurai Villa
After visiting The Silver Pavilion or Ginkaku-ji, I will recommend you to go to Shisen-do on foot. If it is possible, don’t go there from Shirakawa-dori Street. Take the small streets that are quite and its atmosphere is still like an old Japanese village. This place was once separated from the center of Kyoto but it became part of the city over time.
Shisen-do was established by Jozan Ishikawa(石川丈山), who studied the Chinese classics. He also studied about landscape architect. Those study fields defined his life and helped him to design Shisen-do as he imagined.
He was one of the Samurais of Tokugawa Ieyasu during Tokugawa’s took of power. They both fought against Toyotomi clan for the supremacy of Japan. After Toyotomi clan was completely defeated he withdrew from the samurai service and devoted to his studies.
He built Shisen-do at the age of fifty-nine when he retired to Kyoto from Hiroshima. The name of Shisen-do comes from the name of thirty-six classical Chinese poets. You can see a portrait of each of these Chinese poets displayed in the main room. His love for The Chinese classics is shown in this building, too.
Jozan Ishikawa stayed here and made it his private residence studying everyday on the veranda enjoying the sounds of the mountain.
After his death, Shisen-do became a temple of the Buddhist sect Shingon. Some years later it changed to the Buddhist sect of Soto Zen. They have kept the beauty of this Temple-Villa to this day. The garden is the main point of the visit. You can walk around it or watch it from the veranda of the temple. The azaleas in May are especially beautiful to see in the garden. Also in autumn you will see some spectacular red colors of the maple trees. You can sit on the veranda and enjoy the sound of Shishiodoshi. It was a Japanese rural device used to scare the animals of the forest with the sound of bamboo hitting a stone. But today it is a kind of an ornament in a Japanese garden.
The gate and the garden are both covered with white sand that are brushed with a broom leaving beautiful marks on it in the morning.
You can also see an old traditional kitchen that is not used nowadays. However it gives you an idea of how the servants prepared some plates for Joan Ishikawa.
This kitchen attached to the main building with wooden walls shows us how easy was in this era to burn the houses by accident and why so many buildings are not the original.
After the visit to Shines-do you can visit the closest Shrine just some meters apart called Hachidai-jinja. This Shrine is famous because the famous Sword master Miyamoto Musashi prayed here before one of his great battle against the Yoshioka School. He also created his famous style of the Ni-ten Ichi Ryu in which he drew his two swords at the same time during this battle.
Nowadays people pray here to Susanohno-Mikoto God usually for Success in business and studies, happiness and marriage.