Kyoto Autumn Must-Sees | Rengeji Temple & Its Poet's Garden
This little temple is a big spot on any autumn tour of Kyoto, or Japan's fall foliage.
During the early years of Japan's Kanbun period (1661-1673), Imaeda Chikayoshi ー a retainer of the Kaga clan ー took the remains of a small Kyoto temple that had been destroyed during the 15th-century Onin War, and rebuilt it in the north-eastern corner of the city, giving us the Rengeji Temple (蓮華寺) we know today. In modern times, this Tendai sect temple is known for distinctive stone lanterns with conical tops, popular among tea ceremony experts, and a particularly beautiful temple garden, designed around a deep pond.
The Rengeji Temple garden was created by Ishikawa Jozan, an Edo-era Renaissance man who was known for poetry, calligraphy, tea ceremony, and of course garden design. Utilizing the "chisen kaiyushiki" (池泉回遊式) style of garden landscaping, Ishikawa Jozan created a strolling path surrounding the water, which passes through a thick grove of maple trees.
While the lush greenery of the summer months and the cool tatami mats of the temple floor makes Rengeji fairly popular in the warmer months, the garden really shines every autumn, when the maple leaves turn a brilliant red and visitors come from near and far to enjoy the temple's "koyo." During the fall, sightseers crowd onto the temple porch to take a seat and look out onto the garden, admiring the view of Ishikawa Jozan's masterpiece as the leaves are reflected in the calm pond waters.