Diachiji Garden Title

Garden Title Pic

The Horai garden at Daichiji is maintained by Shimizu Toshiharu, a priest who teaches social studies at nearby Shirayama Middle School. His wife is usually the one to show people around, though. As one walks along the corridors to the viewing pavilio n, two things are striking: the strong smell of cypress and an odd plunk....plunk....plunk....coming from the loudspeakers attached to the ceiling. The former is from recent construction work. On February 2, 1993, a particularly heavy snow caused the roof of the main hall to cave in. The building has since been entirely rebuilt in cypress to the precise dimensions of the original. The latter, an acoustic addition to the viewing experience, is an amplified recording of water dropping into a suikinkutsu echo chamber. The original concept of the garden was also an acoustic one. The smooth, soft sound of the wind blowing through the pines growing on the site in th e 17th century was a reminder of the sea and islands depicted in the garden.

The walk along the corridor is short and one soon arrives at Horai Teien. A massing of shaped green azaleas set against the natural (though constructed) hillside behind and white sand below is the primary feature of the garden. (plan to be attached) Marc Trieb sees the Horai garden as an example of the juxtaposed modes of formality (shin, gyo, so) that "have served as a generative force behind much of Japanese art and environmental design." The shea red okarikomi shrubs suggest a treasure ship being tossed among undulating waves of the sea. Azalea cubes and spheres form the treasure in the ship piled around the almos t invisible stones that are said to represent the seven gods of fortune. To the right of the ship's prow is a separate rounded mass of azalea with a protruding stone forming a turtle-shaped kameshima beneath the eaves of the building. Behind the kameshima, running perpendicular to the viewing platform and providing a geometric counterpoint to the waves is a line of hinoki (cypress). In the foreground below the viewing pavilion's steps, is a round, flattened stone flanked by two more small azaleas. This is meant to provide a place for zazen meditation while viewing the garden.

The purplish-brown of winter foliage gives way to a bright floral display from late May to mid June. This becomes lush green foliage by August and September. In autumn, the momiji maple trees on the hillside behind burst into flame.

Diachiji in SpringDiachiji in Summer
Diachiji in AutumnDiachiji in Winter

Larger Photos

The garden was built in the early decades after the Tokugawa government restored peace and stability at the beginning of the 17th century. It is unclear, however, precisely when the garden was constructed. The current pamphlet and interpretive signs both claim Kobori Enshu (1579-1647) himself designed the garden in the late 1620's. This is certainly possible, but, like many of the gardens with which Enshu is credited, his connection here is debatable. Th e temple was still in ruins during Enshu's lifetime and it seems unlikely the garden would have been built before the temple buildings were restored in. This did not occur until twenty years after Enshu's death. In fact, a number of referenc es refer to his grandson being responsible for this garden. Enshu's fame as a designer and arbiter of taste was so profound, it was not unusual for successive generations of designers to adopt his name, thereby lending legitimacy to their work.

The juxtaposition of an okarikomi azalea garden sandwiched between temple buildings and a hillside is not unique to this garden. The garden at Raikyuji temple in Okayama is structurally quite similar, the only differences between the two being the sli ghtly earlier construction data at Raikyuji and the sharper, more choppy lines of the topiary. The smoother lines at Daichiji probably reflect the lesser role of the stone insertions.

The Site

The temple at Daichiji dates back 1200 years to its 8th century founding by Gyoki (670-749), a prominent Korean-born priest that travelled extensively spreading the Buddhist doctrine.

While the karesansui of Horai Garden is the most significant feature on the temple grounds today, it is one of the more recent transformations of the site. Gyoki is thought to have originally dug a p ond here in the shape of the Chinese character kokoro (heart/soul/mind.) Similar kokoro ponds (see Saihoji) have appeared in numerous Japanese gardens, even to the present, but they appear to have been particularly popular in the latter centuries of the Heian period (794-1185) after the importation of Buddhism from China (538AD). The first temple building was erected on an island located in the center of this pond. An unusual feature was the pond's use as an irrigation resevoir for nearby fields. The pond no longer exists, however, and the irrigation function is now served by two much larger resevoirs just to the west and northwest of the temple grounds. The temple was known as Kantansan Seirenji in these early centuries and was established as a pray er site for protection of the state.

In the early 1320's the temple changed hands from the Tendai branch of esoteric Buddhism to a Zen sect based at Kyoto's Tofukuji Temple. Long neglected, the grounds were restored and seven additional structures added.

In 1577 the entire temple was burned to the ground during one of many military campaigns that would eventually lead to the reunification of Japan under the Tokugawa regime. The temple was restored until 1667 to celebrate the completion of Minakuchi-jo Castle nearby. The present Buddha Hall(butsuden), chashitsu, and priest's quarters (hojo) date from this time. The name of the temple was also changed at this point. Its proximity to two large resevoirs lent inspiration for its present appelation, Dai chiji, the "Temple of the Large Pond." In addition to Horai Teien, a second garden between the teahouse and storeroom contains pines resembling dancing cranes. The storehouse background is kept whitewashed to reflect the moon during evening tea ceremonies, creating the illusion of an open garden in a very confined space. Here, the garden is an abstraction of a mountain view with a stream flowing through a valley. Other examples of clipped karikomi appear around an ancient (over 300 years old) pine tree in the foregarden at the entrance of the temple. While the venerable pine tree has been there for some time and is qu ite impressive, the entrance garden is a 20th century addition of little note.

Diachiji TeahouseDiachiji Pine Tree
Diachiji Hut

Larger Photos

Return to Tour