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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

History

Ikoji Temple Garden 医光寺雪舟庭園

The finest garden from Sesshu—the famed 15th-century painter

This garden is a masterpiece by Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506) — one of the greatest artists in Japanese history — and is thought to have been created around 1478 when he was head priest at Iko-ji Temple.

Don't Miss

  • The rakan statues, each with a unique expression
  • Sesshu Memorial Museum nearby
  • Another Sesshu garden at nearby Manpukuji Temple

How to Get There

Take the 10-minute bus ride from Masuda Station. On buses bound for Masago, get off at Ikoji bus stop.

Masuda is last station on the Sanin Main Line running from Tottori.

Unfurling like a scroll

Gardens in Japan usually fall into two categories: view gardens — meant to be seen from a single viewpoint, usually the veranda of a temple or samurai home — and stroll gardens, meant to be walked around and more like a park. This garden can be considered a semi-stroll garden.

It unfurls like a scroll painting. The pond is in the shape of a crane flying west, and in it the island is shaped like a turtle. Both the turtle and crane are symbols of longevity.

The garden is populated with elements that change with the passage of the seasons: in spring the weeping cherry tree blossoms, azaleas flower in May and in the summer all is lush green. Autumn turns the maples red, but it is in winter, after snowfall, when many consider it the most evocative of Sesshu's paintings.

The story of Sesshu

Born in rural Okayama in 1420, as a young boy Sesshu was sent away to train as a Zen monk, and quickly showed an aptitude for art. At this time he received the name Toyo. Later he moved to Shofukuji temple in Kyoto and studied under Shubun, the greatest painter of the day. Once established as a painter in his own right he took the name Sesshu.

Sesshu moved to western Japan and painted most of his masterpieces there. The art of the time was based on the ink-painting techniques of China's Song dynasty, but Sesshu is credited with altering the style and making a distinctively Japanese version that has remained influential to this day.

He returned to Masuda towards the end of his life and is buried not far from the Sesshu Memorial Museum.

Exploring inside the temple

Wandering the rooms of the temple will reveal a wealth of art, including some lovely folding screens (though none of them were done by Sesshu) and a delightful 18th-century painting of the Buddha entering Nirvana. Worth looking out for is the Kaizan-do, a small hall of the main building which has a collection of rakan statues.

Rakan were the disciples of the Buddha, and a feature of their statues is that each one is carved with a unique expression. There are only 16 here, rather than the 500 found at some places, but the details and facial expressions are very beautifully carved. They were carved from single blocks of red pine.

Afterward, head to nearby Manpukuji Temple, only 500 meters away, where another Sesshu garden awaits.

Manpukuji Temple—the other garden

Manpukuji, one of the oldest temples in the region, was relocated to this spot in 1374 by the 11th Lord of Iwami, Masuda Kanemi, who made it his family temple. It has quite a different appearance to Iko-ji Temple, more minimal in design and with less decoration, which is also how the garden here appears. This is a view garden meant to be enjoyed from the veranda. With advance notice you can reserve matcha green tea and cake. Ponder the garden while sipping your tea.

The large rock protruding from the “mountain” beyond the pond represents Mt. Meru, the axis of the universe, known as Shimisen in Japanese. The pond is in the shape of the Chinese character for heart, kokoro.

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