Tofuku-ji Hojo – southern garden looking towards the entrance
I have recently returned from Japan, where amongst many other fascinating places I spent time at a beautiful Zen garden in Kyoto. The beauty and stark simplicity of the “dry landscape” rock garden at Tofukuji temple stayed with me, so I wanted to share a few images with you.
Above and below are views of the Hojo (residence of the chief monk of the temple or monastery) Zen garden at Tofuku-ji. Although built in the 13th century, like many temples in Japan it was destroyed through fire or war. It was rebuilt in its current incarnation in 1890. This garden was created in 1939 by Mirei Shigemori.
As a fan of Modernism I couldn’t help seeing it everywhere here – in the strong black and white contrast of the outside structure, the honest use of materials with exposed beams – and the understated simplicity of the rock garden itself. But of course it is Japanese Zen art and aesthetics that influenced Western Modern art and Modernism, not the other way round.
The imposing rocks are carefully laid out to tell a particular story, each rock an island surrounded by moss – while delicately raked small stones represent the sea or the ocean.
From the entrance walkway, where over a century of bare feet have polished the wooden floor, one is immediately taken by the timeless beauty of the place.
Uniquely, the Hojo is surrounded by four distinct gardens on all sides – the rock garden being just one of four (southern garden). Below is a view of the moss garden (northern garden), cleverly combining square stones and moss to create this beautiful check pattern .
If you are interested in finding out more about Tofukuji, do take a look at the temple’s history on their website.