Hogon-in Temple in Arashiyama, is arguably the most impressive garden that tourists visiting the area must see. It is a Buddhist sub-temple of the Rinzai Zen head temple, Tenryu-ji.
The temple was founded in 1461 and was initially constructed in the Kamigyo-ku district of Kyoto, which is now the center of the city. Zen Master Seichu Eiko was the first abbot of the temple. It underwent significant destruction during the Onin War. However, the temple was eventually reconstructed and relocated to its current site in Arashiyama, adjacent to the Tenryu-ji temple, during the Meiji period.
The Lion’s Roar Garden at this temple is a remarkable sight to behold. This classic strolling pond garden is renowned for its ability to blend in with its surroundings seamlessly. It was designed by Sakugen Shuryo, a Japanese Zen master and diplomat who visited Ming-dynasty China twice before creating this garden.
A Garden with Precise Details
The garden has some unique features, such as “Borrowed Scenery.” It skillfully utilizes the background scenery of Mount Arashiyama to add depth to the garden. Near the entrance, there is a dry pond that represents the ‘sea of suffering’ of human life. Additionally, there is a dry-stone construct that represents the Dragon Gate Falls on the upper Yellow River in China. Legend has it that a carp that can jump these falls will transform into a dragon, which has become a symbol for a person attaining enlightenment and becoming a Buddha. Lastly, the garden features the Lion Rock and the Blue Rock.
At the entrance of Hogon-in, there’s a statue called Arashiyama Rakans. It represents the desire of Hogon-in for world peace and the spiritual freedom of all living beings. The temple’s main hall features a central Eleven-faced Kannon Bodhisattva, surrounded by thirty-three smaller attendant Kannon images.
The temple is a beautiful sight to see, adorned with fresh green leaves, lush moss gardens or colorful foliage in autumn. However, it is only accessible to visitors during some special times, such as spring and autumn.
You can now also witness the garden illuminated at night, which perfectly complements the stunning view of this historic garden during autumn. A breathtaking sight where the red-leafed trees seem to burst into flames with the changing light.