The site of a mountain hermitage built by Ishikawa Jozan, a master calligrapher in the clerical script style and expert in the Chinese style of poetry, who was also the founder of the sencha tradition of steeped tea
Shisen-do Temple was the mountain hermitage built as a retreat in 1641 by Ishikawa Jozan (then aged 59), who had served the general Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Edo shogunate.
Jozan retired from service as a warrior at the young age of 33 and began to study Zen Buddhism and the Cheng-Zhu school of Neo-Confucianism, opening up a new world of calligraphy, Chinese poetry, and the sencha tradition of steeped tea; he became a refined man of culture who also devoted himself to gardening, pouring his genius into Shisen-do Temple until his death at the age of 90.
The proper name for Shisen-do Temple is Outotsu-ka. It means "A residence built on uneven land", and one could say that it is a suitably poetic name. So why did it come to be called Shisen-do Temple? The name is derived from the main room, called the Shisen-no-ma (Room of Immortal Poets), which features portraits of 36 Chinese poets that Jozan commissioned from Kano Tan'yu, one of the foremost painters of the Kano school, which is said to have laid the foundations for painting in the Edo period (1603-1868); these portraits also feature poems about each poet, which Jozan himself wrote.
Lauded as a masterpiece from the time of its creation, the characteristically Zen karayo-style garden of white sand is particularly famous for its satsuki azaleas in spring (late May) and its autumn leaves in fall (late November); coupled with the elegant sound of the bamboo shishi-odoshi water feature that echoes around the garden periodically, these charming surroundings captivate a great many tourists. Also known as Jozan-ji in its current incarnation as a temple of the Soto sect of Buddhism, it has been designated as a national historic site.
Address: Ichijoji-Monguchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City,, Kyoto
Hours open to visitors: 09:00 - 17:00
Admission Fee: ¥500 (adults), ¥400 (high school students), ¥200 (elementary and junior high school students)
Closed: May 25 each year (the anniversary of Jozan's death; closed to the public)
Directions: About 15 minutes on foot from Ichijoji Station (34 minutes from Kyoto Station) on the Eizan Electric Railway. (Car) 43 minutes from the first exit of Kyoto-minami interchange on the Meishin Expressway.