Saturday, May 30, 2009

Detached Palaces in the Jonangu area (Kyoto)

In a former post I have written about the enormous temples the so-called Retired Emperors set up in the late Heian-period in the area of what is now Okazaki Park. Here I want to call attention to their other building activities: the detached palaces they set up to the south of Kyoto, in what was then a pastoral river landscape, in the wider area of the Jonangu Shrine.

[Image of the Toba Detached Palace with its large lake and garden]

Toward the end of the Heian Period former Emperor Shirakawa built a majestic villa here (called Toba Dono or Toba Rikyu) from which he ruled in retirement. It was probably finished around 1087 - there were north, east and west halls, water pavilions, etc. The district thus became an important political and cultural center - it was as if the capital had been moved here, remarked one commentator.

Just like in Okazaki Park, there is nothing left of former glory in this area. All grand architecture and richness has vanished from the face of the earth. When walking here from Takeda Station on the subway and Kintetsu lines, after a residential area you will mainly encounter warehouses, distribution centers and, around the southern ramp of the Meishin highway system cutting through the landscape, a huge cluster of love hotels.

[Cluster of exuberant love hotels near the southern ramp of the highway to Kyoto]

In short, the seamy side of the modern city. There are even some plots of vegetables between the love hotels, showing that some old farmers are still defending the castle of Japanese agriculture, although I would not want to eat their products.

[Tomb of Emperor Konoe with pagoda]

The tomb of Emperor Konoe, the least important of the Retired Emperors as he died at age sixteen, is the most beautiful. Its stands in a quiet corner next to Anrakujuin Temple and is crowned by a two-storied pagoda. An imperial grave that has kept its Buddhist colors - in fact, so-called Shinto burials with embalmed bodies were an invention of the Meiji Period, from the late 7th to 19th century all imperials burials were carried out according to Buddhist rites (i.e. cremation).

[Anrakujuin and its azaleas]

Anrakujuin Temple itself was originally set up by Retired Emperor Toba in 1137 in the grounds of his villa. It owns an Amida statue that was the subject of personal devotions by Emperor Toba - the statue now is housed in a concrete storehouse that is fenced off and closed.

[Monuments in the garden of Anrakujuin]

The temple itself lost its luster in the Edo-period, despite an attempt at restoration by the Toyotomi family - the pagoda was rebuilt by them in 1606. The only interesting thing I saw were some scattered stone statues and monuments and the blooming azalea bushes.

[Kitamukisan Fudoin, the North-facing Fudo Hall]

Nearby Kitamukisan Fudoin Temple stands next to another imperial tomb, that of Emperor Toba himself. The temple is dedicated to the Fudo cult and has many modern Fudo statues in its cramped grounds.

[Stone Fudo statue in the grounds of Kitamukisan Fudoin Temple]

This temple was also set up inside Emperor Toba's villa, in 1130. The main image, a Fudo statue, faces north towards the capital (then Kyoto) in order to protect it and preserve the peace of the land. Here, too, the buildings are mostly modern.

[Tomb of Emperor Shirakawa]

The final tomb is that of Emperor Shirakawa. One of the great emperors of Japanese history lies in cramped grounds, next to a highway ramp, enclosed by ugly warehousing companies and the love hotels are only a stone's throw away. Is this another instance of "how the great have fallen?" or does it show the relative neglect of historical (yes, imperial) sites in modern Japan?

[Tomb of Emperor Shirakawa (the trees) seen from the back where drum cans and storage racks are kept; you can als spot the highway ramp]

The main feature of the Toba Detached Palace was its garden and the Jonangu shrine was set up in the area to reflect past landscaping glory. But that is for another post.

[Decidedly non-pastoral landscape on the way to the Jonangu Shrine]

The imperial tombs, Anrakujuin and Kitamukisan Fudoin are all a 10-min walk south-west of Takeda Station on the subway and Kintetsu lines. Walk south along the line and turn west at a sake shop where you also see the pagoda of the Konoe Tomb. From here, it is another 5 min south to the Jonangu Shrine

Monday, May 25, 2009

Phantoms of Temples in Okazaki Park (Kyoto)

Once upon a time, Okazaki Park, now known for its museums and zoo, as well as of course the Heian Shrine and its garden, was filled to the brim with with the most beautiful temples of the land...

No, there is nothing left of them, the Six Temples or Rokushoji of late Heian times - history has been at its most cruel here. Shirakawa, the first politically active Retired Emperor (In), began building the first of the six in 1075, in the Shirakawa district of Kyoto, northeast of the Imperial palace - where we now find Okazaki park.

[Heian Shrine]

In the next century, six huge temples and two residences were built here by the successive emperors Toba, Sutoku and Konoe. As these so-called Retired Emperors had replaced the Fujiwara regents as the "power behind the throne" (with a young child emperor) the temples were also centers of government.

As a sign of the times, they all carried the Chinese character "sho" or "katsu," victory, in their names. The temples were not simply established as acts of piety, but rather as ways of protecting income from imperial estates and a certain way of life, as John W. Hall says in Medieval Japan. The building of these large temples served as a way to extract support from aristocratic families as well as to justify to use of public taxes for the imperial house.

[Heian Shrine]

In historical order, the six temples were:

Hosshoji, officially dedicated after two years of building activities in 1077, by Emperor Shirakawa. At Hosshoji, the main hall opened on a lake and consisted of a large center chapel flanked on each side by corridors of many bays - a bit like Byodoin. The main image here was a 9.5 meter tall Vairocana Buddha as in Nara's Todaiji. The Lecture Hall housed a Shaka Trinity, the Godaison Hall statues of the esoteric Five Kings of Light.

On the opposite side of the pond was an Amida Hall with nine Amida statues as in Joruriji. Later a Yakushi Hall was added and on an islet in the pond a spectacular octagonal pagoda soared nine stories skyward. There was also a sutra repository containing a copy of the complete Buddhist canon.

Hosshoji stood at the location of the present Kyoto Zoo and the school grounds north of it. Initially, the temple flourished greatly as the family temple of the Imperial House. The downturn began in 1208, when a thunderstorm caused a fire. This was followed by the weakening of the Imperial power after the Jokyu Disturbance of 1219. The Onin War added the finishing touch, leaving no trace of the wonderful architecture and marvelous statues and other art treasures.

Sonshoji, in 1102 by Emperor Horikawa. Sonshoji was laid out on a plan similar to Nara's Kofukuji. It stood in Okazaki Park at the location of the present Kyoto Kaikan. This was the second largest of the six, after Hosshoji. Besides a Golden Hall, Kodo and Middle Gate there were a Kannon hall, a Yakushi hall and a Godai Hall (again dedicated to the Five Kings of Light). Like Hosshoji, this temple started weakening in the middle Kamakura period.

Saishoji, in 1118 by Emperor Toba. Characterized by the presence of three pagodas, besides the usual Golden Hall, Yakushi Hall and Godai Hall. Stood along the road to the present Heian Shrine. This temple was destroyed by fire in 1219.

Enshoji, 1126 by Taikenmonin, the wife of Emperor Toba. This temple also had three pagodas - a five-storied pagoda flanked by two three-storied pagodas on an east-west axis. The Main Hall was dedicated to the Five Buddhas, there was a Yakushi Hall and a Godai Hall. Stood where now the Kyoto Municipal Museum is. The temple's fortunes weakened from the mid-Kamakura period.

Seishoji, 1139 by Emperor Sutoku. The details about this temple are vague, although there were at least a Golden hall, Lecture Hall, sutra repository and bell tower. The temple was destroyed by fire in 1219.

Enshoji, 1149 by Emperor Konoe. This temple counted a Golden hall, pagoda and Ichijikinrin Hall (One Syllable Golden Wheel was an esoteric Buddhist deity). In 1163 a hall with nine Amida statues was added. The pagoda and Golden hall burned in 1219, the whole temple was lost in 1225.

Try to dream up Okazaki Park in the late 12th century: six huge temples with in total at least eight soaring pagodas, halls with magnificent statues, of the quality of Byodoin and Joruriji... A Buddhist art paradise... and nothing whatsoever is left of it. Why? The temple's power in the politics of the day was too prominent, they were bound up with the fate of the system of government by Retired Emperors that was replaced by shogunal rule in the Kamakura period. To destroy a political system also its symbols had to be destroyed...