The Horai garden at Daichiji is maintained by Shimizu Toshiharu, a priest who teaches social studies at nearby Shirayama Middle School. His wife is usually the one to show people around, though. As one walks along the corridors to the viewing pavilion, two things are striking: the strong smell of cypress (hinoki) and an odd plunk....plunk....plunk....coming from the loudspeakers attached to the ceiling. The former is from recent construction work. On February 2, 1993, a particularly heavy snow caused the roof of the main hall to cave in. The building has since been entirely rebuilt in cypress to the precise dimensions of the original. The latter, an acoustic addition to the viewing experience, is an amplified recording of water dropping into a suikinkutsu echo chamber. The original concept of the garden was also an acoustic one. The smooth, soft sound of the wind blowing through the pines growing on the site in the 17th century was a reminder of the sea and islands depicted in the garden.
The walk along the corridor is short and one soon arrives at Horai Teien. A massing of shaped green azaleas set against the natural (though constructed) hillside behind and white sand below is the primary feature of the garden. Marc Treib sees the Horai garden as an example of the juxtaposed modes of formality (shin, gyo, so) that "have served as a generative force behind much of Japanese art and environmental design." The sheared okarikomi shrubs suggest a treasure ship being tossed among undulating waves of the sea. Azalea cubes and spheres form the treasure in the ship piled around the almost invisible stones that are said to represent the seven gods of fortune. To the right of the ship's prow is a separate rounded mass of azalea with a protruding stone forming a turtle-shaped kameshima beneath the eaves of the building. Behind the kameshima, running perpendicular to the viewing platform and providing a geometric counterpoint to the waves is a line of hinoki(cypress). In the foreground below the viewing pavilion's steps, is a round, flattened stone flanked by two more small azaleas. This is meant to provide a place for zazen meditation while viewing the garden.
The purplish-brown of winter foliage gives way to a bright floral display from late May to mid June. This becomes lush green foliage by August and September. In autumn, the momiji maple trees on the hillside behind burst into flame.
The garden was built in the early decades after the Tokugawa government restored peace and stability at the beginning of the 17th century. It is unclear, however, precisely when the garden was constructed. The current pamphlet and interpretive signs both claim Kobori Enshu (1579-1647) himself designed the garden in the late 1620's. This is certainly possible, but, like many of the gardens with which Enshu is credited, his connection here is debatable. The temple was still in ruins during Enshu's lifetime and it seems unlikely the garden would have been built before the temple buildings were restored in. This did not occur until twenty years after Enshu's death. In fact, a number of references refer to his grandson being responsible for this garden. Enshu's fame as a designer and arbiter of taste was so profound, it was not unusual for successive generations of designers to adopt his name, thereby lending legitimacy to their work.
The juxtaposition of an okarikomi azalea garden sandwiched between temple buildings and a hillside is not unique to this garden. The garden at Raikyuji temple i
Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto
Only in the cloister
Could such a garden thrive, a soil where nature
Flowers in spiritual dryness,
Drawing an interior nurture
From sand and rock.
Where the labyrinth of illusion
No longer entangles the senses
Enmeshing vision in delusive lusters;
Where the lust of the eyes is silenced
And desire of forms, and names of forms,
Move to no visible end.
Those who planted here
Sowed no ephemeral seed
For the seasonal tempests to scatter,
But the silent root that ripens in detachment,
Flowers in renunciation.
Gardeners of eternity,
Those who planted here
Framed the garden in the image of a desert
And the desert in the image of a sea --
Then shrunk the seas to the mind's salt and, tasting,
Dissolved all thought away.
On these rocks no water breaks. Without attrition
Tides and currents in this ocean rest and revolve
In a void of sound, vortex of sand; perpetual
Circles enmesh and paralyzed sea and air:
The effigy of time and measure
Purged of time and measure
Becalmed on this dead sea of being
No wave moves, no wind of desire
Flexes the indolent sail.
But focussing its single eye
On dreamless immobility
The gulf like a burnished mirror
Regards the empty void.
In this dead sea of vision the surges
Merge without movement; the tides
Indifferent to flood and ebb
Freeze in a flux of haste.
The seagull without motion
Broods on the changeless waste,
Then sinks, his feathers frozen,
In a sand ocean.
Frail caravels who sail
This subtle gulf, morte mer,
Who stir with urgent keel
The fossil waters of the Great Mirage,
Or steer by lodestone to delusive ports:
In this calm beyond stasis, dead calm,
No compass points to the land,
No magnet of attachment
Guides the helmsman's hand
Through fifteen naked rocks in raked and rhythmic sand.
Here is no sea for the admirals,
The whalers, the merchants of cargoes --
Those finite venturers for the temporal haven.
These depths are destination,
And naufrage sweeter than harbor.
Shipwreck is haven on this inland sea.