Jodo (the Pure Land) Style Garden (浄土式庭園)

Jodo style gardens were built from the Heian period to the Kamakura period. In academic articles, it is also referred to as "Jodo gardens." As typically seen in Hoo-do of Byodo-in Temple, in gardens of this style, a pond is placed in front of a temple building, such as a kondo (main temple hall) or a hall housing Buddhist statues, to reproduce the world of Gokuraku-jodo (a Pure Land of paradise), because these gardens were made influenced largely by the Jodo (Pure Land) concept of Buddhism.

Summary of the garden style

The Jodo concept arrived at Japan from China via the Korean peninsular as early as in 538 when it is said that Buddhism was introduced into Japan. It was during the Nara period that this concept became known widely, and people did not desire to be reborn in Gokuraku-Jodo (the Pure Land paradise) after their death, but they mostly considered that the concept would be for offering memorial services for the dead or for consoling spirits or for repaying their parents' kindness.

In the initial style, a pond was placed in front of a major building of a temple, such as a Kondo (main temple hall) and/or an Amitabha hall, lotus was planted there and a flower garden was also planted, as its early sign seen in Yakushi-ji Temple and Hokke-ji Temple Jodoin in the Nara era.

When compared to gardens in shinden-zukuri architecture, the central building in the Jodo style garden is an Amitabha hall instead of a shinden. When a garden of this style was introduced in a temple, the pond occupied a considerably large part of the premises. The sight where magnificent halls and towers were reflected in the pond would give people viewing it an image of the Pure Land.

The Emperor Shirakawa's Toba Rikyu (Imperial villa), which was built over a long period of approximately 80 years from around the end of 11th century, was located at a scenic place along the Kamo-gawa River south of the Heian-kyo Capital, where villas had been built. The villa was built in this place, occupying an area of 1.5km in the east-west direction and 1km in the north-south direction. The pond covers an area of approximately 655 meters in the east-west direction and approximately 873 meters in the north-south direction, with several islands placed in it. Boasted by the Retired Emperor Shirakawa, the garden was a Jodo style one where residences such as the Minami-dono (south) hall and Kita-dono (north) hall, and other halls and towers, including Anrakuju-in Temple, were placed around the pond.

Other typical gardens of this style include Hojo-ji Temple built by FUJIWARA no Michinaga, Byodo-in Temple by FUJIWARA no Yorimichi, and there was also the Joruri-ji Temple where a pond was placed on the east side of its Amitabha hall.

In the beginning of 12th century, Jodo style buildings and gardens were also constructed in Hiraizumi in the Tohoku area, located far from the capital, and the relics of the gardens still remain there. Chuson-ji Temple and FUJIWARA no Motohira-built Motsu-ji Temple and keep their original forms relatively well, and stone configurations were newly found.

In the premises of Kanjizaio-in Temple built by the wife of Motohira and of the Shiramizu Amidado hall (literally, a white-water Amitabha hall), their ponds were excavated and are restored for public viewing.

In addition to chitei (arbors by a pond), comparatively large number of gardens of this style were built, including those of Hokai-ji Temple and Hossho-ji Temple, both of which were built during the middle of the Heian period, those of Tobain-dono Villa, Hokongo-in Temple, Enjo-ji Temple and Hojuji-dono Palace, all of which were built toward the end of the Heian period, and those of Yofuku-ji Temple, Kitayama-dono Villa and Shomyo-ji Temple all of which were built in the Kamakura period.

Major Jodo style gardens at various places

Major Jodo style gardens at various places are listed below:

Motsu-ji Temple: Hiraizumi-cho Town, Iwate Prefecture
The Shiramizu Amidado hall: Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture
Enjo-ji Temple: Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Hoo-do of Byodo-in Temple: Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture
Joruri-ji Temple: Kizugawa City, Kyoto Prefecture