Soul of the Garden

Images of Japan, Tofuku-ji, Kyoto

The Tofuku-ji complex was founded in 1236 with the aim of building a temple in the style of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji, two of the great temples of Nara. In fact, the name "Tofuku-ji" is a combination of the names of the two Nara temples. The temple grounds are awash in Japanese maples and must be one of the greatest fall color destinations of the world. If you are in Kyoto in late autumn be sure to stop by for the foliage as well as the gardens.

The gardens of Tofuku-ji provided me with some of my favorite memories from our trip. The gardens of the Hojo (or Abbot’s quarters) prove that Japanese gardens are not frozen in time, but are evolving works of art. In fact, these gardens are actually modern creations dating from the 1940’s, and it shows in their bold forms and striking use of geometry. Images of the moss and stone “checkerboard” pattern of the north garden actually served as one of the inspirations for the pattern we created on our back patio. So, there is a minor echo of Tofuku-ji in Austin! There are images below of the Hojo, the, temple grounds, and of the  more traditional garden of the Kaisan-do sub-temple garden as well.


The main temple hall seen from across a gorge filled with maples.


A covered footbridge over the gorge. The wall surrounding the Hojo is to the left.


Covered walkways connect many of the buildings.


Imagine the sound of wooden sandals, temple bells,  and a soft spring rain.


The rock and sand garden of the Hojo - very dramatic.


A little closer.


Closer still.


Raised berms of moss and raked sand. The inland sea?


A trimmed checkerboard of azaleas. Its a shame they weren't in bloom! The footbridge is just beyond the wall.


Looking in the opposite direction.


The north garden with its checkerboard of stone and moss. One of my favorite gardens ever! The maple-filled gorge lies just beyond the trimmed shrubs.



Your move...


Like a Piet Mondrian garden.


So serene.


On the east side of the Hojo.


The east veranda.


Door detail.


A stone memorial on the temple grounds.


At the entrance to the Kaisan-do sub-temple garden.


The Kaisan-do sub-temple has a more traditional garden centering on a lovely pond.


A  zig-zag footbridge across a bog.


A dry garden adjoins the pond. Note the subtle checkerboard raking in the sand. The inspiration for the Hojo gardens?


From the opposite direction.


Steps leading through the complex.


Maple leaves.


A citrus in bloom (Trifoliate orange?)

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