One of the most recommended autumn colors spots in Kyoto’s Rakuhoku area is Enkoji temple. It is located next to the more popular sightseeing spot of Shisendo, but in recent years its popularity has been increasing quickly. In Enkoji the best way to enjoy the autumn views is after the leaves have fallen to the ground and covered up the entire space. Undoubtedly this temple will be a popular topic from now on!
Founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu! Famous temple of Rakuhoku district
Enkoji in Rakuhoku district of Kyoto belongs to Rinzai Zen sect’s Nanzenji fraction and is known for its beautiful garden with scattered autumn leaves. It dates back to 1601 when the first shogun of Edo period Tokugawa Ieyasu established it himself – a rarity for Kyoto.
Originally it was established as Fushimi School near Fushimi castle and the famous zen priest and principal of the best Ashikaga school in Shimotsuke province – Sanyo Genkitsu – was invited to teach. Later the school was transformed into a temple and moved to its current place. In other words, Enkoji is the predecessor of Edo period’s temple schools.
Enkoji school used wood printing items donated by Tokugawa Ieyasu to print materials about Confucianism and art of war. These printings were called Fushimi-ban or Enkoji-ban and were some of the first wooden block printings in Japan. The wooden models are now preserved as important cultural heritage. Enkoji changed many places before settling down to today’s location in Rakuhoku district.
The new dry landscape garden Honryutei
After you walk inside the temple you will see the spacious dry landscape garden Honryutei completed in 2013. The other famous garden “Jugyu no Niwa” in front of the drawing room is beautiful too, but the new garden also has its own charm.
The dry landscape garden, which resembles the Dragon Garden in Tofukuji’s Ryuginan, has white sand which looks like a sea of clouds and stones in the shape of a dragon rising to the sky. It is interesting to watch it from all possible angles and enjoy the different views. This garden is also intentionally incomplete so that beholders can complete it with their hearts in their minds.
Hear the water dipping into the underground basin
There is a buried earthen jar in which water drops in front of the drawing room. There are many such underground water basins in Kyoto’s temples, but this one is said to be the best. Its shape, called Enkoji-shape, is peculiar and resembles a large cup for sake. Be sure to enjoy the sound of the dripping water from the bamboo pipes.
The underground water basin is surrounded by different plants according to the season. Worth visiting in every season.
Enjoying the famous Jugyu no Niwa garden
The famous circular Jugyu no Niwa garden was created around Rakuhoku district’s oldest lake Seiryuchi. The name “Jugyu” is an analogy of the Buddhism’s path to enlightenment. In the past this place was not open to visitors as Zen monks did their ascetic practices there.
The garden has lately become so popular as an autumn colors spot that it attracts even the attention of media. But in fact the garden didn’t use to be as beautiful before. Until a couple of decades ago, the pond was completely filled in and the place was covered in weeds. Today’s brilliant landscape was a result of many hardships.
The best way to enjoy the autumn colors of the garden is to sit on the red carpet in front of the drawing room and absorb the burning red of the trees. Many people take photos from a particular place inside where the pillars look like picture frames against the background.
The best time is after the leaves fall!
If the space in front of the drawing room is too crowded, you can watch the autumn colors from the treasure house Zuiunkaku. The view of the garden is different and there are similar pillars which resemble picture frames.
There is also an observatory hill with a small Toshogu shrine from where a bird’s eye view of Kyoto city can be seen. The panorama view is quite vast and in the evening you can enjoy the view of Kyoto turning red. Of course, looking down to the garden’s autumn colors is a fantastic experience too.
The best time to see the autumn colors in Enkoji is after the leaves start to fall on the ground. Jugyu no Niwa garden is splendid not only because of its autumn colors, but also because of its moss. When the leaves fall all over the moss the landscape becomes stunningly beautiful.
You can visit the temple early in the morning with a reservation!
In the last few years Enkoji’s popularity as an autumn colors spot increased. This means that unfortunately it can get really crowded inside during the peak of the season. It is slightly more enjoyable to go right after the temple opens in the morning or later at evening time.
However, the temple has started accepting reservations for early morning visits between November 16 and December 8 to avoid crowds. About 50 people per day can sign up for a visit between 7:30 and 8:30 when the temple is still closed for ordinary visitors. Make your reservation in advance by phone. This is a great chance to see the garden carefully and take a photo without other people around. Be sure to use this opportunity.
Zuiganzan (Enkoji) Phone: (075) 781-8025 Admission fee: 500 JPY Early morning admission fee: 800 JPY
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