|the Garden of Heian
The Shin'en consists of four gardens which surround the main shrine buildings
on the south, west, middle, and east. With a total area of approximateley
33,000 square meters, these stroll-style landscape gardens are designated
as a national scenic spot representative of Meiji-era (1868-1912) garden
Nishi Shin'en (West Garden)
The focus of the Nishi Shin'en is a quiet pond named Byakko-ike. The irises
around the pond bloom in all their glory in early summer, lending the
garden an ethereal beauty. A tea ceremony arbor called Choshin-tei is
located in the cluster of trees in the garden's southwest.
Minami Shin'en (South Garden)
This garden is a Heian-style garden designed for holding Kyokusui-no-en,
a garden party during which aristocrats amused themselves by composing
Japanese poems. In spring, the garden is bright with the deep pink blossoms
of drooping cherry trees. The cherry blossoms are followed by azaleas
in early summer and by hagi (Japanese bush clover) in autumn. The garden
contains a smaller garden called Heian-no-sono featuring plants and flowers
which appear in Heian-period literary works.
Visitors who pass through the cluster of trees behind the shrine's main
buildings will find a beautiful garden called Naka Shin'en. this garden,
as well as the Nishi Shin'en, was constructed in 1895. It contains the
Soryu-ike pond which features the Garyu-kyo, a walkway consisting of stone
pillars which once served as foundation stones for the girders of Sanjo
Ohashi and Gojo Ohashi, famous bridges in the center of the city of Kyoto.
The pond is surrounded by an exquisite expanse of rabbit-ear irises.
Higashi Shin'en (East Garden)
This garden was contructed in the early 1910s. In the center of the garden,
there is a pond called Seiho-ike on which courtiers are said to have gone
boating in ancient times. Borrowing the Higashiyama hills as background
scenery, the garden contains two elegant old-style buidings - the Taihei-kaku
and the Shobi-kan adjacent to it - which add to the garden's overall charm.