Hōsen-in, Reflecting Sacrifice through Blood-Stained Ceiling and Serene Garden View

Date: 19th November 2017

Continuing on with my Ohara’s Temple Series, yes, lets call it that for now (see below for links to the rest of the posts), lets look at the town’s purportedly second most popular temple – Hōsen-in.

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Hōsen-in (宝泉院) is a Tendai sect. of Buddhism temple established in 1012 originally as a living quarters for priests from neighboring Shorin-in. When you first enter the temple, you can see the 700 year-old pine tree, pruned to look like Mt. Omi-Fuji. Unfortunately, for reasons I have yet to understand (comment if you know), the pine tree was not pruned to reflect this at the time of my visit, you can compare it to the picture from Discover Kyoto.

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Where is that Mt-Omi Fuji?

Nevertheless, you can still enjoy the magnificent lower beams of the pine tree from inside the tatami room, framed like a picture.

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Pine tree as seen from the tatami room

Hōsen-in is particularly famous for the shitenjo (blood-stained ceiling) from the floor of Fushimi Castle, from seppuku (ritual suicide) committed by Torii Mototada and fellow samurai, on the side of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s forces. Their persistence to defend the castle, albeit falling to Ishida Mitsunari’s forces after 10 days, allowed Ieyasu time to re-strategize and eventually triumphing in the Battle of Sekigahara which led to the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Other temples in Kyoto which used this floor for some parts of their ceilings are Genko-an and Shodenji. The blood stains on Hōsen-in’s ceiling are rather subtle compared to those at the other two temples.

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From the tatami room, be mesmerized by the view of the inner garden, Bankan-en while enjoying a set of matcha (green tea) and wagashi (Japanese sweets), which are included in the admission fee. Such a conflicting feeling, remembering the sacrifice of the samurai while enjoying the scenery.

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Matcha and wagashi, part of the admission fee

Another smaller garden, the Tsurukame Teien (literally Crane and Turtle Garden, both of which symbolizes longevity in Japan) features a pond representing the crane, a mound representing the turtle, and sasanqua as the immortal island, Mt. Horai.

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Tsurukame Teien

Next is a strolling garden, Horaku-en which features raked gravel patterns, sand cones, and a water basin. I imagine it must be beautiful when autumn was at its peak – when I was here, the leaves were already falling.

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Horaku-en, with scattered red maple leaves
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Sand cones at Horaku-en
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The weird stone placements on the bottom left
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Water basin

I know my pictures do not do justice for this temple, but if you are in Ohara, be sure not to miss this temple.

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Traditional Japanese brazier

Check out the rest of the Ohara Temple Series here:

Info

Admission fee: 800 yen (inclusive of green tea and Japanese sweets)

Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00

Official Website

Access

Take Kyoto Bus no 16 or 17 to Ohara Bus Station (about 50 minutes from Central Kyoto), from there it is a 15 minutes walk. Hosen-in is right beside Shorin-in.

 

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Author: Jennifer

Hi! I am Jennifer. I enjoy planning my own travels and love traveling in Japan - for the history, nature, temples, and the food! Read more for travel guides of places I have visited.

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