Ashikaga: The Ashikaga Shogunate emerged as the dominant power in Japanese political life after more than fifty years of internal struggle and war (what is referred to as the Nambokucho period).  In 1392, the “northern branch” (i.e., the Ashikaga family) had achieved dominance, and, for the first time, the imperial household ceased to wield real political power.  Along with the rise of the Ashikaga Shogunate came a flourishing of the arts, which took on a new life with the refinement of Zen Buddhism (as well as the Gozan system).  A sense of austerity in design begins to evolve at this time in all facets of the arts, from painting to tea ceremony to architecture.

aware: An intense emotional repsonse to beauty, nature, and the inherent sadness of life.

bakufu: military gonvernment of the medieval period.

Basho: Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is revered as the father of Japanese haiku. Born as a samurai, Basho renounced his privileged social status and lived as a commoner amidst the flourishing Genroku era.  Although his haiku are thought to embody the essence of Zen Buddhism, Basho did not become a Buddhist priest. He was a traveler instead. Basho took his pen-name from Basho-an, “The Banana Hermitage,” located in Fukagawa (his first pen-name was Tosei).  R. H. Blyth considered Basho the most religious of the three great haiku poets (the other two being Buson and Issa).  Basho’s haiku are like snap-shots of a consciousness unhampered by the insatiable demands of the ego, or records of insights at different locations during different seasons.

A rather iconoclastic poet, Basho rejected the poetic forms which were in fashion during the seventeenth century.  Indeed, Basho felt that the very spirit of haiku was spontaneity, not imitation.  Following the teaching of Kukai, also known as Kobodashi, Basho advised his students not to “follow in the footsteps of the men old but rather seek what they sought.”

His haiku, furu-ike ya (“The old pond”), is recognized as a classic, as well as the model verse of the Basho School, as well as inspire Buson and Issa.  The school was to thrive until 1742, fifty years after his death.

The old pond,

The frog jumps in,

The sound of the water.

[R. H. Blyth transation]

Benzaiten: Benzaiten (Sanskrit: Sarasvati) is a goddess of mythic origin.  Originally from India, Benzaiten or Benten for short, is usually portrayed as a beautiful woman playing a biwa or lute. One of the seven Chinese gods of good fortune, Benten is regarded as the patron saint of the arts.

Bodhisattva: A bodhisattva (or bosatsu in Japanese) is one on the path to enlightenment, one who is enlightened, or one who enlightens others (Aikten). Traditionally the bodhisattva postpones his or her entrance into nirvana until all sentient beings have achieved enlightenment.

bonkei: a miniature landscape built on a tray.

bonsai: a dwarfed shrub or tree planted on a shallow tray.

Buson: Of Buson’s life (1715-1783) very little is known, except that he was married and had children.  His style is very descriptive and refined.  R. H. Blyth considered Buson more of an artist than and a religious or humanistic poet.  Compare Buson’s “Old pond” poem with Basho’s:

The old pond,

A straw sandal sunk to the bottom;

Sleet falling.

[R. H. Blyth translation]

chanoyu: also known as sado, is the tea ceremony.

chisenkaiyu: A stroll garden, like kaiyushiki, except that the view is appreciated from a boat on a pond.

chisenshuyuteien: Heian period pond gardens.

chozubachi: an upright water basin adjacent to the veranda of a tea house or temple.

Enni: Enni Ben’en spent seven years in Shing-shan, China, studying under Ch’an master Wu-chun Shih-fan (1177-1249); many Tofukuji monks, as a result of Enni’s pioneering efforts, made the pilgrimage to Ching-shan to study.  Enni, probably due to his connection with Michiie, was welcomed to Kyoto, unlike Eisai and Dogen.  One of Enni’s disciples, Mukwan Gengo also known as Fumon (1212-1291) was asked by retired Emperor Kameyama to convert a former imperial villa into a Zen monastery, which became Nanzenji.

Enshu: Kobori Enshu (1579-1647), tea master and garden designer, brought the kenyu or kaiyushiki stroll garden to perfection. His greatest achievement in this style is the garden at the Katsura Rikyu or Katsura Imperial Villa. Since Kobori Enshu was only a boy when the Katsura Rikyu was established, the garden most likely underwent numerous changes in design before Kobori Enshu arranged it.

Feng Shui: Chinese ‘Feng Shui (pronounced ‘fung schway’, ‘fusui’ in Japanese) originates in Taoist principles of yin (female) and yang (male) being properly aligned to attract positive energy or ‘chi’ (ki in Japanese). The emperor was seen as the ultimate conduit for this ‘chi’ or life force with his main function being the performance of ritual to channel this energy to all Japanese people. Historically, the imperial line was most likely a powerful line of shamans migrating to Japan from the Korean peninsula over 5,000 years ago.

Fujiwara: The Fujiwara family, through “skillful means” and intermarriage with the imperial family, managed to control the politics of Japan during a large part of the Heian period.  The Fujiwara used their daughters to gain access to royal appointments (Regents were normally an uncle, grandfather, or father-in-law), which they dominated from 858-1184.  There were four main branches of the Fujiwara family, descending from the four sons of Fujiwara Fuito (659-720); individual family members are too numerous to list here.  Sansom points out that the Fujiwara used their great wealth to bring political pressure upon the throne; they understood that the key to power in Japan is land – a political reality as true today as then (139).  In addition, the Fujiwara instilled in the political climate of Japan fierce feelings of clan loyalty and devotion to personages rather than policy – another habit which has persisted into modern times.  The Fujiwara Regency began to decline following the death of Fujiwara Michinaga in 1027; the gradual rise of the warrior, or samurai, class (in particular the rival Taira and Minatmoto military families) also contributed to a shift in Japanese power politics in the eleventh century.

fukanbi: bird’s eye perspective as element of garden design planning.

furyu or fuga: “elegant indifference” to the concerns of the external world.  D. T. Suzuki defines furyu as a “disinterested enjoyment of Nature.”

fusuma: large screens, often decorated or painted, which divide rooms in a Japanese house or building.

fuzei: literally, “wind” and “feeling,” which in turn suggests the atmosphere or poetic effect of the garden.

Genji: “He [Genji] returned to Nijo ••• There was no one in the guardroom.  The men closest to him, reconciled to going with him [to the coastal town of Suma], were making their own personal farewells.  As for the other court functionaries, there had been ominous hints of sanctions were they to come calling, and so the grounds, once crowded with horses and carriages, were empty and silent.  He knew again what a hostile world it had become.”  (223)

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

1976.  Trans. Edward G. Seidensticker.  London: Secker and Warburg, 1985.

Gozan: (“Five Mountains”) System refers to a Chinese-influenced power structure among senior Zen monasteries during the Ashikaga Shogunate.  Nanzenji, in Kyoto, was the seat of this powerful system.  The order of the five temples under Nanzenji was as follows: Tenryuji, Shokokuji, Kenninji, Tofukuji, and Manjuji.  (Kamakura also had a group of five Zen temples which were subordinate to Nanzenji: Kenchoji, Enkakuji, Jufukuji, Jochiji, and Jomyoji.)

hachi: Hiroyuki Suzuki informs us that the motif of “eight views” is based on a Chinese tradition of eight famous views of the Hsiao and Hsiang Rivers, painted by Sung Ti of the Northern Sung Dysasty (960-1126).  These eight views were: view of Clear-weather mists above a mountain market village; view of a fishing village at sunset; view of a sailboat returning to a distant inlet; view of the confluence of the Hsai and Hsiang rivers in the rain; view of a temple bell in the evening mist; view of the autumn moon over Tung-t’ing Lake; view of geese descending to a sandbar; and a view of snow falling on a river at dusk.  Japanese painters adapted this motif, applying such perspectives to the Omi area of nearby Lake Biwa.  The Eight Views of Omi, as they came to be known, are: view of the town of Awazu on a clear and windy day; view of the village of Seta at sunset; view of a sailboat returning off the shore of Yabashi; view of Karasaki in the night rain; view of the evening bell at Midera near Lake Biwa; view of the autumn moon over Ishiyama temple near Lake Biwa; view of geese landing near Katada; and a view of snow falling at dusk from Mount Hira, overlooking Lake Biwa.

Hakuin: (1685-1769) one of the most beloved personalities in Japanese Zen.  Born in present-day Shizuoka, Hakuin became a Rinzai monk at age fifteen, and was given the name Ekaku.  He eventually restored an abandoned temple, Shoin, and became its kaisan or first abbot, taking the name Hakuin.  He is credited with reviving Rinzai Zen Buddhism in Japan, especially during his appointment as abbot of Myoshinji.  Although sympathetic to most forms of Buddhism in Japan, Hakuin could not abide the Jodo (Pure Land) sect; he felt man must achieve his own enlightenment through his own effort, not by merely reciting the name of Amida Butsu.  Hakuin died at Shoin and was given the name Shinki Dokumyo Zenji (the Zen Master of Divine Power).  Artist, poet, letter-writer (in which he expounded his Buddhist insights), Hakuin was first and foremost a teacher; and, even though his name may be unfamiliar to many, his teaching still challenges and enlightens philosophy students everywhere.  Hakuin was the Zen master who asked: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Han Shan: Han Shan (Japanese, Kanzan), otherwise known as “Cold Mountain,” and his sidekick Shih-te (Japanese, Jittoku) are a legendary pair of Chinese Zen lunatics, that is to say, they possess the true Zen spirit.   A poet of the T’ang Dynasty, Han Shan was a contemporary of Li Po, Tu Fu, and Wang Wei; yet, despite such illustrious company, Han Shan’s poems have an unmistakably vernacular feel to them.  (Ishikawa Jozan chose HanShan, along with Li Po, Tu Fu, and Wang Wei, as one of his thirty-six Chinese poets.)  Like many Asian hermit-poets, Han Shan takes his name from his abode, which is metaphorically also our original nature.  Three hundred poems are attributed to Cold Mountain and most have been translated (see Reader’s Resource). The following translation is by American Poet – and former Kyoto resident – Gary Snyder:

Men ask the way to Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain: there’s no through trail.

In summer, ice doesn’t melt

The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.

How did I make it?

My heart’s not the same as yours.

If your heart was like mine

You’d get it and be right here.

Hideyoshi: Like the lives of his predecessor Oda Nobunaga and his successor Tokugawa Ieyasu, the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1535-1598) is difficult to summarize. As a military and political leader, he is considered peerless in Japanese history. From humble beginnings, Hideyoshi came to power gradually under Nobunaga and eventually took control at Nobunaga’s death on June 22, 1582. After that Hideyoshi’s rise to complete power continued: he became Regent in 1585 and Chancellor in 1586. Hideyoshi reversed the tolerance which Nobunaga had shown Christians by issuing an edict for the expulsion of all Jesuits from Kyushu, Japan’s southern-most island. (In 1587 Hideyoshi went so far as to order the mutilation and crucifixion of 7 Franciscans and 19 Japanese followers.) On the other hand, he tried to liberalize trade with the Portuguese – with mixed results. All through his career, however, Hideyoshi maintained a distrust of foreigners. Although not considered as cruel as Nobunaga, Hideyoshi nonetheless did treat Sen-no-Rikyu mercilessly by demanding his suicide. Hideyoshi died with the wish that Japan become a unified country, which it would under the leadership of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

hirasansui: a “level” garden, usually sand or gravel.

hoboku: a “broken ink style” of calligraphy, notably used by Ishikawa Jozan of Shisendo.

hojo: sometimes called the hondo, this is the main building or abbot’s residence of a Buddhist monastary. Services are usually held in the hojo.


“A certain monk,


of Ninnaji,

felt great pity for the

multitudes of dying.

When he came upon a dying man

he performed last rites,

traced the holy mark

upon the brow.

To keep tally of the dead

he counted two full months.

On the streets of Kyoto

bounded north and south

by Ichijo and Kujo,

east and west

by Kyogoku and Suzaku

the corpses numbered

forty thousand.”

Hojoki: Visions of a Torn World

[translation by David Jenkins and

Yasuhiko Moriguchi]

Honen: (1133-1212) founder of the Jodo (Pure Land) sect of Buddhism, the first sect to disassociate itself from the Mt. Hiei and Mt. Koya monastery complexes.  Honen advocated the “easy path” to enlightenment (compared with the “difficult path” of meditation and austerity) which in turn relied upon “the power of another” or, in other words, nembutsu: the recitation of  Buddha Amida’s name: “Namu Amida Butsu.” Spiritually, practitioners of the Pure Land sect also enjoy the protection of all Buddhist deities – not just Amida.  In his old age, Honen was banished to Tosa (now Kochi), Shikoku for suspicions of impropriety.

hoo: a term given to the special name which an emperor, who has abdicated and become a Buddhist priest, has taken.  Not his name properly, hoo describes the change in address of an emperor.

Horai: The subject of many poems, songs, and religious allusions, Horai is a mythic mountain in China, or sometimes located off the China coast.  A kind of “mountain of youth,” Horai is a paradise which transcends birth and death.  Called P’eng-Lai in Chinese, it is also considered the land of the immortals, such as the goddess Benzaiten among others.

Hosokawa: The Hosokawa family took over the leadership of the Kyoto government following the end of the Onin Wars and the collapse of the Ashikaga shogunate in the 1490s.  Hosokawa Katsumoto (1430-73) assumed the head of the Hosokawa family at age twelve and he was head of the Hosokawa faction at the outset of the Onin Wars.  His force – numbering about 60,000 men – was called the “Eastern Army,” which fought against the forces of a rival family, Yamana, led by Yamana Michitoyo (1404-73), who was, incidentally, Hosokawa’s father-in-law. Yamana became a Buddhist priest, Sozen, also known as the “Red Monk”; however, he abandoned his religious career at the outset of the Onin Wars. Yamana’s forces, at this time, numbered about 90,000 men and were called the “Western Army.” Hosokawa’s wartime palace was adjacent to Shokokuji in Kyoto. Katsumoto was expert at manipulating the final Ashikaga shoguns, from Yoshitane (1490) through Yoshiaki (1573).


As one of the six Nara sects, Hosso Buddhism is considered the “Dharma Character” sect, based on teachings from Indian Buddhism.  It stressed that enlightenment could be attained through the powers of mind (associated with Vasubandhu and Hsuan-tsang)  and the metaphysics of the harmonious whole (taught by the Kegon, or “Flower Wreath,” sect), and that mind alone could create karma.  Hosso Buddhism has been accused of attempting to construct a hierarchical and aristocratic religion in Japan.

ichimatsumoyo: Checkered pattern made of stones and moss.  The quinessential example is found at Tofukuji.

Ieyasu: Tokugawa Ieyasu (1541-1616) was the most influential military leader and statesman after Hideyoshi and dominated the politics and culture of seventeenth-century Japan.  He served under Oda Nobunaga, gaining distinction; later he maintained a delicate relationship with Hideyoshi, the national leader at the time.  Ieyasu brought the civil wars which had crippled Japan to an end after the death of Hideyoshi in 1616.  He encouraged foreign trade (with China through the Dutch and Portuguese when direct trade with China was outlawed) and, with trade, foreign knowledge.  Originally lenient toward outsiders, Ieyasu reversed his position on foreigners, especially Christians, in 1614 by suppressing Christianity in Japan, burning churches and exiling priests.  Amazingly, for 250 years, Japan was at peace under the Tokugawa Shogunate.  Another notable Tokugawa descendant includes Tokugawa Mitsukuni (1628-1700), grandson of Ieyasu, compiler of the Dai Nippon Shi (Great History of Japan) which would eventually replace the Honcho Tsugan as the politically correct history text.  Following Chinese models, Mitsukuni, with the Dai Nippon Shi, sought to instill a sense of national unity in the population.

ihai: small memorial tablets, usually of deceased priets or patrons, which are placed within a Buddhist temple.  The average Japanese household will also have ihai of departed family members.

ikebana: Literally, “living flowers,” ikebana is the practice of flower arrangement.  Still an active practice with thousands of practicioners,  there are numerous societies, schools, and styles the world over.

ikedoro: the term for shakkei or borrowed scenery.

ishidatami: a paving style in which stones are arranged into a rectangular “tatami” shape.

ishidoro: A stone lantern of which there are many variations: those on stone pillars, wooden pillars, and those that rest on the ground.

ishitateso: garden building priests.

ishiwotatsu: garden building.

Issa: Issa (1763-1828) is revered as the haiku poet of realistic, human dimensions.  Originally Issa wrote in the style of Buson, but soon he was to develop his own unique style. Issa’s poetic subjects range from the beautiful to the mundane to the downright vulgar, yet every verse penetrates into the essence of life.  (He wrote over a thousand haiku on insects alone!)

Issa, by any standards, had a miserable life.  Orphaned at an early age, he did not have a family or a fixed home until he was fifty, his wife, Kikujo, and his four children all died within ten years, and he himself had contracted palsy.  He married a second time but it didn’t take; he married a third time but died while his wife was with child.  Five months before his death, his house burned down.  A farmer all his life, Issa seemed to attract tragedy, yet his poems speak to the joy, as well as the pain, of everyday existence.

What is often thought irreverent in Basho or unattractive in Buson is wonderful in Issa.

A successor of Basho, Issa contributed this haiku on the frog:

Skinny frog,

Don’t give up!

Issa is here.

Issa’s two primary sources of inspiration are the heart and nature. Consider these two haiku: one ordinary; one enlightened.

The evening cool,

Not knowing the bell

Is tolling our life away.

The evening cool,

Knowing the bell

Is tolling our life away.

[R. H. Blyth translation]

jidai: Japanese historical periods:

Archaic (552) Pre-Buddhist

Asuka (552-645) first Buddhist & Korean influence

Nara (645-794) Buddhism established

Early Heian (794-897) Chinese influence

Later Heian (897-1185) Rise in nationalism

Kamakura (1185-1392) Minamoto shogunate

Nambokucho  (1336-92)

Muromachi  (1392-1573) Ashikaga shogunate Onin Wars

Momoyama  (1573-1615) Nobunaga and the Toyotomi

Edo (1615-1868) Tokugawa shogunate

Meiji-Taisho (1868-1926) Post-restoration Shinto revived

Present  (1926-)

jiriki: self power, a Buddhist term which suggests that enlightenment is attainable through one’s own effort.

Jodo: The second largest Buddhist sect in Japan, Jodo (the “Pure Land” sect [cf., Jodo Shin-shu:”New Pure Land” sect]) was founded by the priest Honen (1133-1212).  Jodo teaches that salvation is only attainable by chanting the nembutsu, “Namu Aminda Butsu” Through faithful practice, believers are reborn in Amida’s Pure Land (as opposed to achieving enlightenment on earth).  The primary images in Jodo Buddhism are of the Buddha Amida (typically flanked by two attendant Bodhisattvas), Sechi, and the goddess of mercy Kannon.

Jozon: Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672) was born in Mikawa Province.  He fought with Tokugawa Ieyasu against the Toyotomi clan but at the age of 33 he was demoted for insubordination, which rendered him masterless  (ronin).  Jozan cared for his mother until her death in 1635 and built Shinsendo 6 years later when he was 58.  He lived there for the next 30 years.  As a poet as well as a scholar, Jozan sought to emulate the wen-jen (Japanese: bunjin) or Chinese literati.  Jozan was considered one of the best kanshi (in the Chinese style) poets of the day.

Thomas Rimmer explains that Chinese poets were arranged by Jozan into eighteen pairs:

1. Su Wu (140?-70B.C.); T’Chien (365-427)

2. Hsieh Ling-yun (385-433); Pao Chao (412?-66)

3. Tu Shen-yen (d. after 705); Ch’en Tzu-any (661-702)

4. Li Po (701-62); Tu Fu (712-70)

5. Wang Wei (701-61); Meng Hao-jan (689-740)

6. Kao Shih (702?-65); Ts’en Shen (715-70)

7. Ch’u Kuang-hsi (fl. 742); Wang Ch’ang-ling (d. 756)

8. Wei Ying-wu (c. 736-c. 792); Liu Chang-ch’ing (709-80?)

9. Han Yu (768-824); Liu Tsung-yuan (773-819)

10. Liu Yu-hsi (772-842); Po Chu-i (772-846)

11. Li Ho (791-817); Lu T’ung (d. 835)

12. Tu Mu (803-52); Li Shang-yin (813?-58)

13. Han Shan (early 9th c.); Ling-ch’e (746-816)

14. Lin Pu (967-1028); Shao Yung (1012-77)

15. Mei Yao-ch’en (1002-60); Su Shun-c08-48)

16. Ou-yang Hsiu (1007-72); su Shih (1037-1101)

17. Huang T’ing-chien (1045-1105); Ch’en Shih-tao (1053-1101)

18. Ch’en Yu-i (1090-1138); Tseng-Chi (1084-1166)

Ju-ni: According to the Chinese literati (bunjin), the twelve views consist of: cherry blossoms filling the path; plowing in the rain at the village out front; the waterfall down the cliff wall; the moon’s reflection in the stepping-stone pond; red leaves along the stream; snow piled high on mountains all around; leisurely clouds above the peak of mount T’ai; the long flow of the Kamo River; evening mist of the capital (Kyoto); the city walls of Osaka; the sound of the pines from beyond the garden; and the shrine in the woods at the neighboring hamlet.

kaimyo: Buddhist name received (purchased) after death.

kaisan: A term denoting the founding abbot of a Zen monastary.

kaiyushikiteien: The stroll garden.  In this landscape gardening technique, the view and perspective of the garden changes as one walks around the garden, following the prescribed path produces the utmost affect.

kameshima: literally “turtle island,” is the smaller of two stones deliberately placed in a rock garden (the other being the tall crane island, tsurushima).  In Asian mythology, the turtle represents longevity.

Kannon: Kannon Bosatsu (Chinese: Kuan-yin), also known in Sanskrit as Avalokitesvara (“one who hears the sound of the world”), is the archetypal Goddess of Mercy.  Although a male deity in India, Kannon (along with the guardian deity Fudo) came to occupy a special place in Japanese Buddhism.  Kannon, today an androgynous deity, is viewed as a protector of women, especially during pregnancy and childbirth.

Kano: Kano is the representative name of a school of painting named for Kano Motonobu (1475-1559) who lived at Myoshinji.  After marrying the daughter of Tosa Mitsunobu, Kano united two diverse styles of painting – the Tosa and the Kano – under one title.  When Eitoku (1543-1590) became head of the Kano family, he departed from the characteristic gray shading of ink painting and began to infuse his work with gold and other bright colors.  Other notable members of the Kano family include: Kano Sanraku (1559-1635), Kano Tanyu (1602-74), Kano Naonobu (1607-50), and Kano Koi (c.1569-1636).  Tanyu and Naonobu were brothers; Sanraku and Tanyu were considered the greatest painters of the Kano school.

kanshoniwa: The “admiration” style garden design, which, as the name implies, should be simply admired from a single perspective.

karenagare: Literally, “dry stream,” this landscaping technique gives the impression of moving water by the careful use of sand, gravel, or stones.  The illusion of ripples or waves moving away from a rock (island) can be implied by how the sand is raked.

karesansui: Literally, “lacking mountain and water,” this is the dry rock garden favored by many Zen temples, notably the gardens of Ryoanji, Nanzenji, and Daitokuji.

karetaki: Literally “dry waterfall,” this landscape technique emplys the strategic placing of rocks and gravel to suggest a waterfall.

karikomi: clipped hedge forms, usually in the shape of rounded stones, as opposed to the animal shapes of Western shrubery design.

KitanoMandokoro: KitanoMandokoro (d.1624) was awarded nobility by Emperor Goyozei in 1588.  In 1603 she was accorded the name Kodaiin, from which the name Kodaiji derives. She became a Buddhist nun upon the death of her husband and then took the religious name, Kogetsuni.

kokushi: Literally, “National Teacher,” the title kokushi is added to the names of those who have achieved the highest level of scholarship, usually related to Buddhism.

kura: Resembling the adobe structures of the Hopi, Zuni, or Navaho tribes of North America, the kura is a storehouse for perishable food, usually rice.  The walls are often a foot thick.

mieakagure: a landscaping technique known as “hide and reveal,” where, given limited space and resources, the maximum effect is achieved through suggestion of a greater landscape of image.

monzeki: The name used to describe temples where abdicated emperors became the resident priests (hoo).

mukaeribosatsu: As the primary religious image of Eikando or Zenrinji, the mukaeribosatsu is the Boddhisattva who “looks behind.”  As such, this is an elegant manifestation of the Boddhisattva archetype: one who postpones enlightenment until all sentient beings have achieved enlightenment.

mudra: An esoteric Buddhist hand gesture, usually suggesting peace or enlightenment.

Mumonkan: The Mumonkan is a collection of enigmatic Zen stories, verses, and koans which challenge the student/meditator to dissolve the duality of cause and effect and to see into one’s original nature.  Chinese Rinzai Zen master Wu-men Hu-kai (Japanese: Mumon), the “gateless gate,” gathered these verses together and added a commentary of his own to each. The fifteenth descendant of Lin-Chi (Japanese: Rinzai) Wu-men’s original koan was simply “mu” or negation; he spent six years contemplating the nature of “mu” until he mastered it.  He died in 1260 at the age of 78.  The first case of the Mumonkan is called “Joshu’s Dog”: “Does a dog have Buddha-nature? Joshu answered “Mu!”(No!”).

Muso: Muso Soseki (1275-1351) was a Zen master who, late in life, achieved the title of Kokushi, “National Teacher.” He wandered the length and breadth of Japan as part of his search for truth.  Muso served many military and political rulers, among them Godaigo and Ashikaga Takauji, and through them sought to promote Buddhism throughout Japan.  For example, Muso urged Takauji to erect a temple and pagoda in every province, as well as send emissaries to China.  These actions, in turn, encouraged the citizenry to look favorably upon the Ashikaga Shogunate.  Besides the temples considered here, Muso Kokushi has also been credited with the design of Kokedera (“Moss Temple”, also known as Saihoji, in Kyoto.

nakajima: the central island in a pond garden.

Nanbokucho: named for Nanbokucho period (1336-1392), or, more specifically, “the period of North and South” (1358-1392) which immediately preceeded the Ashikaga Shogunate.  This period is characterized by warring factions within the imperial household and provincial clans.  Vasts quantities of precious art objects and buildings were destroyed during this time.  It is seen as bitter and desolate part of Japan’s history, an ironic prelude to one of the country’s most artistically prolific periods.

niwa: garden.

nobedan: Another word for flagstones, or cobblestones (see shikiishi).

Nobunaga: Oda Nobunaga was one of the three rulers (along with Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Tokugawa Ieyasu) who helped unitfy the Japanese nation during the sixteenth century.  By far the most ruthless (he slaughtered thousands during military campaigns), Nobunaga was nevertheless an effective military leader, as well as an able administrator and economic analyst.  He ruled from about 1559, when he became master of Owari, to his death in 1582.  A man of humble origins, Nobunaga literally fought his way to supreme military ruler of Japan (he killed his brother early on to advance his “career”).  His wholesale destruction of Enryakuji suggests that Nobunaga loathed religion.  It is probably more accurate to say, judging from his treatment of Christian missionaries (which he favored) and rival Buddhist sects (which he manipulated), that Nobunaga resented religious institutions asserting political influence.

Akechi Mitsuhide (1536-1598), was a general to Oda Nobunaga who, on June 21, 1582, turned against his commander at Honnoji temple.  Tradition has it that Nobunaga closed himself up in a room and commited seppuku  (ritual suicide) before the temple was consumed in flames.  Nobunaga’s body was never recovered; he was 49 years old.  The next day, Akechi attacked Nijo castle.  On June 30, Akechi was killed as he fled from Hideyoshi at Yamazaki, near Kyoto.  Akechi’s daughter, Tama, was to marry into the Hosokawa family.

Onin: The Onin Wars lasted eleven years (1467-1477) and devastated Kyoto.  Ostensibly a simple quarrel between two warlords, Hosokawa and Yamana, the causes which led up to the Onin wars are anything but simple.  Shifts in power at all levels of society can be said to be the generic reason.  Sansom has characterized the years preceding the Onin Wars as follows: “Peasants revolt, trade guilds defy the law, tenants oust their landlords, small shopkeepers make fortunes, and provincial warriors seize the power of the shogun’s Deputies” (217).  By the end of the Onin Wars, much of Kyoto (the site of most of the fighting), was reduced to smoldering ruins. The Onin Wars were an exercise is futility: the origins are vague, the destruction comprehensive, and there were no heroes to speak of (ironically, both Hosokawa and Yamana died before the end of the war, in 1473).  The Onin Wars also led to the complete breakdown of the Ashikaga Shogunate; later shoguns were little more than puppets of the Hosokawa family.

Rikyu: Sen-no-Rikyu (1521-1594) was born in Sakai (in present-day Osaka) of a wealthy merchant family.  As a master of aesthetic taste, Rikyu is remembered as the celebrated tea master who served Hideyoshi Toyotomi – once while on the shore at Hakata Bay in view of Hideyoshi’s naval forces.  Hideyoshi ordered Rikyu to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) for an indiscretion of vague origin: some think his death order was prompted by an infatuation on Rikyu’s part for one of Hideyoshi’s daughters; others say that the sight of Rikyu’s statue looking down upon Hideyoshi from Daitokuji’s SanMon Gate angered the military leader.

rigyoseki: a carp stone; a part of a waterfall arrangement.

Rinzai: One of the two leading schools of Zen Buddhism (the other being Soto) named for Chinese Zen patriarch Lin-chi (d. c. 866).  Rinzai is often termed the “sudden enlightenment” school because of the emphasis placed of satori, or a sudden illumination into the wisdom which surpasses all duality and extinguishes the ego.  This enlightenment is achieved primarily through the practice of koans, short enigmatic dialogues or parables which are meant to dislodge the mind from dualistic thinking.  The master Eisai (1141-1215) is credited with bringing Rinzai Zen to Japan (Eisai was the teacher of Dogen, who founded the Soto sect). Rinzai Zen enjoyed the patronage of the Ashikaga Shoguns.

roji: Literally, “dewy ground,” this is a smaller garden contained within the grounds of a large tea garden.  In more general terms, roji has come to mean the tea garden.

ryumonbaku: an arrangement of stones made to appear as a waterfall.

sabi: is a close cousin to the term wabi.  Both denote an unfulfilled quality of artistic property, yet sabi evokes a sentiment—often romantic—of rustic poverty.  Perhaps an idealised notion of Zen austerity might best capture the spirit of sabi.

Saicho: Dengyo Daishi Saicho (767-822), introduced Tendai Buddhism to Japan and founded Enryakuji temple atop Mt. Hiei which overlooks Kyoto City.  (Enryakuji, at its height, consisted of over 3,000 temples until it was destroyed by order of Oda Nobunaga in 1571.)  Saicho studied T’ien-t’ai Buddhism in China which is based on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.  He synthesized four Buddhist concepts: Chinese Tendai, Mikkyo, new interpretations of Buddhist precepts, and Zen.  Saicho felt that everyone possessed the potential of achieving enlightenment.  In a more patriotic vein, his writings also stress that everyone should contribute toward the betterment of the nation by their Buddhist practice – engineering, agriculture, as well as teaching.

sansoniwagumi: Garden motif employing three rocks.  The largest, center boulder represents Amida Buddha, flanked by the boddhisatvas Kannon and Seishi; or Sakyamuni attended by Ananda and Keysapa; or Nyorai flanked by the boddhisatvas Nikko and Gekko (sunlight and moonlight, respectively).

sentei: a term for garden used in provincial areas, as apposed to Kyoto or Tokyo.

Sento Gosho: The Sento Gosho was built to house the ex emperor and his wives who resided within a separate complex inside the Sento Gosho called the Omiya Gosho. The larger walled structure north west of the Sento Gosho was the main imperial residence for the reigning emperor and his administration until 1867.

shakkei: Literally, “borrowed scenery,” the term suggests a distant scene which used as a background vista in garden design, to in turn highlight the foreground garden.

Shariden: Kinkakuji’s Shariden building was deliberately constructed in Sung Chinese style.  The first floor is named Ho-sui-in; the second floor (in the Buke-zukuri style) is called Cho-on-do; the third floor (in the Karayo style) is called Kukkyo-cho.  For centuries only the interior was covered with gold leaf; there was no outside color or carving until this century.

shikiishi: Flagstones.  These are clustered into groups, like cobblestones, which connect the more loosely arranged stepping stones, tobiishi.

shindenzukuri: Heian archatechtural style wherein a large hall is flanked by smaller pavilions which are joined by covered walkways.  Such buildings often positioned beside a pond for best effect.

shingyoso: Literally, “formal, semi-formal, informal,” these words are used to discriminate between styles of garden construction and layout.

Shigemori, Mirei: Mirei Shigemori studied at the National Art Academy in Tokyo and began designing gardens in 1924.  In 1936, Shigemori started to extensively research the most prominent of Japan’s gardens, about 500 in total, and published twenty-nine volumes of his findings in 1939.  In 1964 he published a book of his own garden creations, Japanese Gardens Designed by Mirei Shigemori. A perfectionist, as well as a modernist, Shigemori refused to compromise his standards.  He often declined commissions to design gardens if he felt that his values differed radically from the client.

shikiishi: flagstones whichform a pathway through the garden, these stones are clustered into groups, like cobblestones, which connect the more loosely arranged stepping stones, tobiishi

shindenzukuri: is a Heian architechtural style wherein a large hall is flanked by smaller pavilions which are joined by covered walkways.  Such construction suggests the sansoniwagumi  style of a Buddha flanked by two attendants.  shindenzukuri  buildings are often positioned beside a pond for best effect.

Shingon: Shingon Buddhism brought to Japan by Kukai (774-835) also known as Kobo Daishi (“Great Teacher”).  Believing that Buddhism was superior to both Confucianism and Taoism, Kukai hoped to unify Buddhist thought in Japan.  In order to do this he went to China in 804.  He met the great master Hui-Kuo (746-805) in the then capital Ch’ang-an (present day Xi-an, the city on which Kyoto was designed).  Returning to Japan in 806 Kukai built a monastery atop Mt. Koya which became the center of the Shingon sect.  Shingon (Sanskrit: Mantrayana “True Words”) is built upon an understanding of the Three Mysteries – body, speech, and mind – but these mysteries are kept secret from all but the initiated.   Ornate Buddhist icons, statues, mudras (hand/finger gestures), mantras, and mandalas are characteristic emblems of the Shingon sect.

Shinran: (1173-1262) was a follower of Honen and is recognized as the founder of the Jodo Shinshu or True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism.  Like Honen, Shinran’s faith centered around the pure invocation of the Amida’s name: “Namu Amida Butsu,” but Shinran was to strip the Jodo sect to the bone.  Shinran’s reduction of Buddhist practice to a simple purity of spirit (even one sincere incantation of Amida’s name is enough to insure admission into paradise) is the essence of the Jodo Shinshu sect.  Along with his teacher Honen, Shinran felt that monastic discipline was not a requisite for salvation and that instead the family should be the center of religious life. Shinran, again like his teacher Honen, was eventually banished from Kyoto for taking a wife. This experience further strengthened his belief that religious life must be tied to the common individual and everyday life.

Shinshu: The Jodo Shinshu (“New Pure Land”) sect was founded by Shinran (1173-1262), a disciple of Honen.  Although very similar to the Jodo sect, Jodo Shinshu stresses that we are unable to achieve salvation by our own efforts, thus placing utmost importance on faith in an external power, namely Buddha Amida.  Faith, in other words, becomes the most meaningful religious practice.

Shohei: Shohei were the warrior monks of Enryakuji (Nara’s Todaiji Temple and the temples atop Koyasan also maintained private armies).  Established by Kakujin (1012-1081), the shohei were originally formed to rid Mt. Hiei of criminals who hid out in the forests of the mountain.  Soon, however, the strength of the shohei began to be put to other uses.  Besides religious activities, the Enryakuji shohei successfully crushed an uprising of followers of Nichiren (who founded the Hokke or Lotus sect of Buddhism), killing over 3000 priests and razing twenty-one temples; they caused Nanzenji’s (then head of the Gozan temples) main entry gate to be pulled down; and in one 250-year period they burned neighboring rival temple Midera to the ground nine times.  Collcutt reveals that the Enryakuji monks also controlled nearly all pawnshop and money lending businesses in Kyoto (95).  Emperor Shirakawa (1056-1129) proclaimed that the shohei were one of three things he could not control – the other two being dice and the Kamo River.  The shohei’s power was finally diminished with the rise of the militaristic Kamakura bakufu.  When Oda Nobunaga attacked Enryakuji in 1571, he confronted a powerful military fortress rather than a simple monastery. Without excusing Nobunaga’s brutality, the military leader obviously knew what he was up against.

Shokokuji: Completed in 1392, Shokokuji temple was built by Yoshimitsu Ashikaga and is affiliated with a specific style of Rinzai Zen Buddhism.  The temple itself is located just north of the Kyoto imperial palace.  Destroyed (1394), rebuilt immediately, destroyed again (1425), rebuilt again (1466), Shokkokuji was destroyed again (1467) at the outbreak of the Onin Wars when it was used as a camp for the “army of the East.”

Shumisen: the central mountain of Buddhist cosmology and expressed in gardening as the singular, upraised stone.

Soami: Soami (1485-1525) was the son of Gei-ami (Shingei) and grandson of No-ami (Shinno), hence the third “ami” of this illustrious family.  Originally, Soami served as a valet to Ashikaga Yoshimasa.  A renaissance man, Soami was well-versed in the arts of poetry, tea, and painting as well as landscape gardening.

Soto: Soami (1485-1525) was the son of Gei-ami (Shingei) and grandson of No-ami (Shinno), hence the third “ami” of this illustrious family.  Originally, Soami served as a valet to Ashikaga Yoshimasa.  A renaissance man, Soami was well-versed in the arts of poetry, tea, and painting as well as landscape gardening.

sozu or shishiodoshi: A water gathering contraption made of bamboo: as the hollowed bamboo fills with water it eventually tips, emptying the water, returning to its original position with a crack.  Originally used to frighten away deer.

sukiyatsukuri: An aesthetic form which incorporates refined elegance and rustic simplicity, in for example, tea bowls.  Sukiya also denotes an excessive manipulation of the medium to achieve a wholly “natural” effect, what Langdon Warner calls “contrived simplicity” (59).

Tadaakira: As a young man Tadaakira, an officer of the Imperial Police, quarreled with some local toughs below Kiyomizu Temple. The toughs had their swords drawn and were out to surround and kill Tadaakira if they could. He too bared his sword and broke away up to the main hall. When still more toughs came after him, he fled into the hall.

Now, Kiyomizu Temple is built out from a steep hillside and stands on a structure of huge wooden pillars. From the open platform before the temple you look out over the treetops. Tadaakira seized one of the great shutters that protect the temple from wind and rain, dashed out clutching it under his arm, and hurled himself off into the valley below. The wind caught the shutter. He sailed like a bird down to a gentle landing and disappeared with all possible speed.

The toughs watched in a row from the railing above. They could not believe their eyes.

[from Japanese Tales.  Trans. and Ed. Royall Tyler.  New York: Pantheon, 1987.  113-114.]

Tadaoki Hosokawa: The leader Hosokawa Tadaoki, (1563-1645), first followed Oda Nobunaga but eventually left the celebrated war lord to join with Toyotomi Hideyoshi for whom he led expeditions into Korea.  Tadaoki later became a Buddhist priest, taking the name Sansei, and he studied tea with Sen-no-Rikyu.  Hosokawa’s wife Tama (1563-1600) was the third daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide, the man who killed Nobunaga.  After a short exile because of her relation to Nobunaga’s murderer, she converted to Catholicism and was given the name Gracia in 1587.  Some say she committed suicide on her husband’s orders rather than be taken hostage by Ishida Mitsunari, an enemy of Ieyasu Tokugawa; others say she was killed by one of Ishida’s swordsmen.

Takauji (Ashikaga): (1305-58) was the first Ashikaga shogun.  He is buried in Tojiin Temple.

Tanyu (Kano): Kano Tanyu (1602-1674), was a famous painter favored by the Shogun Ieyasu.   D. T. Suzuki writes that Kano Tanyu “studied [tea] under the instruction of of Sotan, grandson of [Sen-no-]Rikyu and a great advocate of wabi.”  It was on the walls of Sotan’s tea room that Tanyu painted “The Eight Sage Drinkers.”   He also painted a portrait of Ishikawa Jozan which is still extant at Shisendo.  Jozan described the portrait of himself in this poem:

Self-Eulogy on His Birthday Portrait as Painted by Kano Tanyu

Nyoi [a scepter of authority] in hand, leaning on armrest,

wearing dark robe and black cap.

Silent is his noble visage;

brilliant is his spirit.

He communicates with the Creator

and nurtures the Tao within.

A stubborn old man now eighty years old,

a hermit of three-fold yang [strong, masculine power]

And who is this hermit, you may ask?

The Mountain Man of the Thrity-Six [Chinese Poets]!

[Jonathan Chaves translation]

tanzaku: describes a kind of square, elongated paper used for writing poetry.

tatami: Straw matting used as flooring in Japanese-style room.

tariki: external power, a Buddhist term which suggests that enlightenment is due to help from a superior being such as Amida Buddha (cf. jiriki).

Temple of the Golden Pavilion: The Temple of the Golden Pavilion  [Kinkakuji] Yukio Mishima  (1959, translated by Ivan Morris) concerns the tale (based on an historical incident in 1950)  of a young novice monk for whom the Golden Pavilion becomes a fetish which drives him to destroy the temple.  Mishima writes: “The uncoordinated design of its three stories, in which the art historian could only see a blend of styles, had surely been evolved naturally from the search for a style that would crystallize all the surrounding unrest.  If instead it had been built in one fixed style, the Golden Temple would have been unable to embrace the unrest and certainly have collapsed long since” (36-37).

Tendai: Tendai Buddhism: (Chinese: T’ien-t’ai) introduced to Japan by priest Saicho (767-822) also known as Dengyo Daishi, also founder of Enryaku-ji atop Mt. Hiei (794).  It was Saicho’s main disciple Ennin (794-864), however, who advocated the continual recitation of Buddha’s name, “Namu Amida Butsu” (nembutsu), and who is credited with founding Tendai esotericism (taimitsu).  Based on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, Japanese Tendai Buddhism was essentially identical to its Chinese model, and competed with Shingon as the true esoteric Buddhism in Japan; Tendai also completed with the Zen and Hokke sects for the attention and favor of the power-elite of Kyoto.  The Tendai sect (along with the Hosso sect) cultivated a class of warrior-monks, shohei, who were not bashful about imposing political, disguised as religious, “order” on the city of Kyoto.

tesugakunomichi: Literally, the road of the philosopher’s, this path follows the contures of a canal which flows from Ginkakuji to Nanzenji.

tobiishi: stepping stones.  By following the length and rhythm of steps as prescribed by the these stones, one’s gait is calmed and a tranquility necessary for viewing the garden is encouraged.

Tokei Soboku: received the Zen name, Ryozenisshinoken, from which the front garden is named.

tokonoma: a small alcove in a tea room reserved for a flower arrangement and scroll.

tomeishi: Stones which have been bound by black twine which serve as little Do Not Enter signs.

tsuboniwa: a small enclosed garden, usually within the building complex, almost like an extra room.

tsukiyama: the cone-shaped mound of sand or gravel in a karesansui garden, which represents a larger mountain, usually Mt. Horai.

tsurukame: “Crane and tortoise.”  A garden motif consisting of a large upright stone (the crane) and a low, flat stone (the tortoise).  The stones symbolize longevity and wisdom.

tsurushima: The tall, vertical stone which stands alone in the garden – literally, “crane island.”

tuskubai: The stone basin used for washing one’s hands and rinsing one’s month—characteristic of tea gardens.

wabi: An elusive term which describes a rustic incompleteness to an art object.  Tea bowls, ink painting, even gardens—these artistic expressions are conceived by the artist as incomplete.  It is the viewer who fills in the gaps, as it were, and brings the art to a totality which is as unique as the individual.  An art object which is considered to be rich in this incompleteness is said to be possessed of wabi.

Walking Through Myoshin-ji:

Straight stone walks

up lanes between mud walls

…the sailors who handled the ships

from Korea and China,

the carpenters, chisels like razors,

young monks working on mu

and the pine trees

that surrounded this city.

the Ancient Ones, each one


green needles,



VII, 81, Kyoto

Gary Snyder

Axehandles: Poems by Gary Snyder

San Francisco: North Point, 1983.

Yoshimasa (Ashikaga): (1435-1490) was the eighth Ashikaga shogun, great-great-grandson of Ashikaga Takauji, founder of Ginkakuji.

Yoshimitsu (Ashikaga): The third of the Ashikaga shoguns, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, (1358-1409), grandson of Ashikaga Takauji, was the first Ashikaga shogun to take an active interest in art and culture.  In particular, he promoted Chinese Sung Dynasty aesthetics.

Zen: One of many schools of Buddhism.  Zen came to Japan after the Tendai and Shingon sects and was immediately embraced by the military class.  Zen was first established in Kamakura under the auspices of the Hojo family.  There are two main sects of Zen Buddhism: Soto and Rinzai.  The word Zen comes from the Chinese word Ch’an and the older Sanskrit word Dhyana, which simply mean meditation.

zendo: mediation hall.

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