Heian Jingu Shrine is probably one of the most visited tourist attractions among both local and international visitors in Kyoto. And yet, many of them visit the shrine without knowing the existence of the spectacular landscape garden behind the architecture of the main palace.
The gardens are called Shinen. Its size is 33,000 square meters and is composed of four water gardens. Shinen was designed by a renowned garden designer, Ogawa Jiei (1860-1933). It is the master piece of Ogawa’s work among many other gardens he constructed at the time and has been registered as the country’s Special Place of Scenic Beauty since 1975. It is also one of the most important gardens as it represents the characterises of modern garden styles in the Meiji period (1968-1912).
As a pioneer of modern garden landscaping, Ogawa took a naturalistic approach, allowing visitors to experience a spatial exploration through nature. Water falls, streams, ponds and stone made stepping bridges are all central features of the garden, guiding the eyes of the visitors into a pleasure of viewing the next scenery and joys of passing through them.
Ponds create mirroring effects, reflecting Higashiyama mountain as well as surrounded trees and plants, creating a sense of much spaciousness more than an actual space. This is one of the prominent garden landscape techniques, called a borrowed scenery, shakkei, in gardens of Kyoto. The sense of expansiveness created by shakkei induces an effect of profound sense of upliftment among the visitors. Heian Jingu Shrine is definitely one of the places I would love to recommend anyone to visit. Please remember to explore Shinen while you stay in Kyoto! Other posts of Heian Jingu Shrine Architecture and Shinen.