Shisendo (詩仙堂)

Shisendo is a National Historic Site located in Sakyo Ward in Kyoto City. It is now also a temple named Jozan-ji Temple affiliated with the Eihei-ji School of Soto Zen sect.

Summary

Shisendo is a mountain retreat which Jozan ISHIKAWA, a retainer of the TOKUGAWA family, built in which to lead his retired life. Its name comes from the portraits of thirty-six Chinese poets displayed in Shisen no Ma (literally, 'room of poetry immortals').

These Shisen (poetry immortals) were selected from poets of each of the Han, Jin, Tang, and Song eras in China following the example of the Japanese Thirty-six Poetry Immortals (a group of medieval Japanese poets), and also influenced by the tastes of Razan HAYASHI (a Confucian scholar in the early Edo period). These portraits by Tanyu KANO (one of the most influential painters from the Kano School in the early Edo period) are hung on the four walls of Shisen no Ma.

Jozan built Shisendo in 1641 when he was 59 years old, and lived here enjoying poetry until he died at the age of 90.

Shisendo's real name is Ototsuka. "Ototsuka" means a residence built on unlevel land, and the building and garden are built on a slope of the mountain.

Jozan named the ten elements of the building and garden including Shisen no Ma as the 'Ototsuka jukkyo' (ten spaces on unlevel lands).

Designed by Jozan, who was also a master of landscape gardening, its garden is enjoyable in every season, and the azalea blossoms in spring (late May) and the colored leaves in autumn (late November) are especially famous, attracting many tourists. The white blossoms on a broad-branched sasanqua tree in front of the veranda are also an attraction. Jozan is said to have loved the sound that occasionally echoed from the "Sozu," also known as "Shishiodoshi" (a water feature with bamboo in a Japanese garden), because it was not only practical in keeping deer and boars away but also provided the quiet garden with a bit of interest.

Access

By car: a few parking areas are available close to the gate.

By bus: take Kyoto City Bus route 5, north 8 or 65, or Kyoto Bus route 55 or route 18, and get off at 'Ichijoji Sagarimatsucho' bus stop; it is approximately 300 meters to the east.

By train: approximately 600 meters east of Ichijoji Station on the Eizan Electric Railway.