Hosen-in was founded about 800 years ago a priest quarters for the Sanzen-in temple. The zen garden surrounding the main hall is about 300 years old, but the large pine tree on the south side is much older: 700 years! When watched from the entrance path, the foliage of this venerable tree is shaped like Mount Fuji. Japanese like to give obscure "official" shape resemblances to things and places, but for once this is not something that is hard to see!
Although far from being as crazy-crowded as Sanzen-in, autumn remains a busy season. Even if Ohara is not very close from Kyoto, it is not far enough to avoid hordes of tourists... For a quieter and more relaxing time, visiting in late spring for the aomomiji (青紅葉) "new green leaves" season is better. The ticket is a bit more expensive than other places, but it includes a "tea and sweet" set (抹茶・和菓子) which makes it a very good deal.
On the west of the hall, behind the little shoji window, is a tsukubai water basin (蹲) with a small wooden terrace leading to it. Two planks in the terrace are removable and the temple will place there specific artistic works, such as the leaves and bird carvings you can see in this photo set. Next time you come, the planks will likely be different! Another unique feature for this temple. Note also the pair of bamboo tubes going trough the terrace: you can listen to the metallic sound of water dripping below the basin if you put your ear to it.
Like a few other temples in Kyoto (such as Genko-an), the ceiling of the main hall contains special planks that used to be floor boards for the Fushimi castle. What makes them special? The bear traces of blood from 370 samurai's who committed ritual suicide ("seppuku") when they lost the battle for their caste. Don't look for red stains though: that happened a long, long time ago. But some footprints are still visible, as well as other body parts with a bit of imagination.
Hosen-in has another zen-garden with a very different style, just south of the old tree. Called the "garden of the crane and turtle" (which are both symbols of long life), it features various stones and patterns in a more anarchic way. The three main features of the place are the stone bridge, a racked gravel area and nice tsukubai water basin with neatly arranged stones around it. You can access it by going around the entrance "toll" booth.
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Nearby: Shōrin-in 勝林院 (50m), Jikkō-in 実光院 (100m), Sanzen-in 三千院 (200m), Keitoku-in 桂德院 (950m)
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Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, Ohara, 大原, Hosen-in, 宝泉院, temple, 寺院, 仏閣