This is the most English of Japanese gardens, Murin-an. It still has all the defining components of a traditional garden eg shakkei
or borrowed landscape (the bringing of the distant hillside as if it were a part of the garden itself), rounded clumps of planting, and the stream cascading through the garden. But it has grass, nay verily, a lawn! Its a twentieth century design, and was the garden of a famous artist. Very accessible for western minds.
The fence creates a stunning pattern in the sun and leaf shade. It was in this garden on a visit before, upon seeing the shadows of bamboo leaves against a plain cream wall, that I remembered my Dad offering to put new wallpaper of my choice in my bedroom. I was about eleven. I chose a stylised design of bamboo leaves on a pale cream background. Hmmmm.
Tenju-an is centuries older, and is my number one ichiban
favourite of all time. Although I have seen it in autumn before, I must have always seen it in the afternoon. The light was totally different. I could have been visiting a new garden - well, no, not really. But then, yes, its changed. Thus " a change IN thing, is a change OF thing" as my old teacher used to say!
Anyway it is still a delight to my eyes and my heart. How could you not step through the doorway, and walk along those stepping stones? I entered and walked along the stepping stones - enjoying every step, every moment. Going along the path just for the sake of walking, not for the purpose of going somewhere. "I have arrived. I am home. In the here, and in the now." Thich Nhat Hanh
Such unity and harmony. All those separate entities - stones, maples, plants - together make a harmonious whole that is totally satisfying for me. Perfect.
And just when things cant get any better, another small gateway reveals a large pond with a stroll path around it. And the sunlight, shining through the tall bamboos behind, takes your breath away.
Even the smallest stone basin holds the whole world within it. Aaaaaaaahh.
The next day was a free day, and my last whole day in Kyoto. I decided that I would not go to any more gardens, but would ascend Mt Hei or Heizan which guards the north west of Kyoto (one of the feng shui reasons for founding the city here all those years ago).
I decided to go by bus all the way, rather than fathom out the train, mountain railway and cable car version. It was a day of missed buses. Fine usually, but these buses were one every hour. However, "nowhere to go, nothing to do, I'm not in a hurry" another Thich Naht Hanh style song.
The road up is so high, that I saw an airship out of the window, at about our height. I expected everyone in the bus to be amazed like me, but they took no notice and were more intent on looking out for maple autumn colour! Maybe it often comes there?
The hill is full of temples among the trees. And this is a new, small World Peace Bell the sign said.
But this bell was absolutely huge. When the log was swung at it, the sound reverberated around and appeared to die away. But if you listened, the sound came back again, it hummed deeply. And after that it faded into silence,then it happened again. Three times before it became silent finally. Totally amazing. But then I am transfixed by bells.
Enryaku-ji is a temple that once spread right out across the mountain. I know it is still spread out, because instead of the bus down, I caught the shuttle bus by accident. And spent a happy (and free) half hour on the bus, going along tiny roads next to huge drops, between pines and maples, from distant temple site to distant temple site. Which is how I nearly missed nearly the last bus down the mountain. And with no signs in English at all, it was a bit unsettling. Especially as the temples were closing, and the fleets of Japanese tourist coaches departing. And it was freezing up there. It snowed that night on the mountains just north of here. Brrrrrrr.
But earlier in the afternoon, I got off the shuttle bus at the top of the mountain and found not a Japanese garden, but a French one. It tried to interpret famous French Impressionist paintings. And so, bizarrely, I visited a representation of Monet's garden in France, that was inspired by gardens in Japan!