Reiun-in is a sub-temple of the large temple complex Tofuku-ji (東福寺) in Higashiyama, Kyoto. Built in 1390, it was originally called "Fuji-in", but this name was not related to Mt Fuji as the characters are very different (不二院, lit. "not two temple"). The gardens were left abandoned for many years and were recently renovated and redesigned in 1970 by famous landscape artist Mirei Shigemori, who also designed other important gardens in Tofukuji.
The temple consists in two main sections. The main building has two gardens surrounding its study: the "nine mountains and eight seas garden" (九山八海の庭) in the south and the "garden of the bowing clouds" (臥雲の庭) in the west. The second part is a smaller tea room called the "moon viewing pavilion" (a common name, see Shisen-do for instance). The tea room is private and cannot be visited.
The "nine mountains and eight seas garden" is the most prominent feature of this temple, and has a very unique centre of gravity: a sort of altar which holds a single stone. The rest of the garden has classic features for a karesansui garden, such as a sea of gravel (representing the sea), small mounds covered by moss (mountains), lanterns, a gourd-shaped water basin (蹲い - tsukubai) and various stones. But the altar stone is peculiar. Named "iai seki" (遺愛石, lit. relic stone), it was given by Tadatoshi Hosokawa to the priest of Reiun-in and represents Mt. Shumisen where Buddha is said to live.
The other side of the study is bordered by a garden that clearly bears the style of Shiregomi, with various sand colours separated by curved lines made of stones. "Rain ripples" are also very present. The statue of s small naked monkey-gnome hides under a carefully clipped tree.
At last, the small garden between the main building and the tea room also has a few nice classic zen features worth a photo or two: water basin, lanterns, moss-covered grounds and of course the "moon viewing pavilion" in the back.
The temple is one of the first visitable ones when coming from Tofuku-ji station. The short walk from the main road is enough to deter the hordes of tourists which makes the place a good candidate on crowded days and seasons. But the main garden is a bit of an acquired taste...
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Ikkai-in 一華院 (100m), Tentoku-in 天得院 (190m), Kaizan-dō 開山堂 (220m), Shōkō-in 盛光院 (220m), Funda-in 芬陀院 (230m), Shōrin-ji 勝林寺 (270m), Ryōgin-an 龍吟庵 (300m), Tōkō-ji 東光寺 (320m), Sokushū-in 即宗院 (370m), Kōmyō-in 光明院 (520m),...
External links: ウィキペディア, Kyoto Navi, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, そうだ京都, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 東山, Higashiyama, Tofuku-ji, 東福寺, temple, 寺院, 仏閣, 霊雲院, Reiun-in