About Hōgon-in

Hōgon-in, a subtemple of the Rinzai Zen head temple Tenryū-ji, was established in 1461 with support from the estate of Hosokawa Yoriyuki (1329-1392), a noted deputy of the shogun during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Zen Master Seichū Eikō, a third-generation descendant of Zen Master Musō Soseki (the founder of Tenryū-ji), served as the temple’s first abbot.
  At the time of its founding Hōgon-in was large temple located in the northern part of Kyoto (present-day Kamigyō-ku Ward). Burnt to the ground during the Ōnin War (1467-1477), it was rebuilt only to suffer further vicissitudes that saw its eventual relocation to the precincts of Kōgen-ji, a subtemple of Tenryū-ji. It was later moved to its present location in the southwest corner of Tenryū-ji’s grounds.
Hōgon-in is presently known for its historic “Lion’s Roar” landscape garden, first laid out by the sixteenth-century Zen monk Sakugen Shūryō (1501-1579). The garden employs the natural beauty of the Arashiyama area with its thick moss, its large, unusually shaped rocks, and its skillful use of the “borrowed scenery” of the surrounding mountains. The main hall, which enshrines images of Kannon Bodhisattva and Jizō Bodhisattva, is also noted for its collection of 58 sliding-panel paintings by the modern artist Noriko Tamura.
In front of Hōgon-in’s main gate is an arrangement of statues known as the Arashiyama Rakans, a rakan being a fully enlightened Buddhist sage.
With fresh green leaves in the early spring and colorful foliage in the autumn, the temple and its surroundings are a delight to see throughout the year.

The Lion's Roar Garden

The Lion's Roar Garden

Hōgon-in's Lion's Roar Garden was originally designed by Sakugen Shūryō (1501-1579), a Japanese Zen master and diplomat who made two extended journeys to Ming-dynasty China.

  • Borrowed Scenery
    Borrowed Scenery
    The garden skillfully employs the background scenery of Mount Arashiyama to lend it an added dimension of depth.
  • The “Sea of Suffering
    The “Sea of Suffering”
    Near the entrance to the garden is a dry pond symbolizing the “sea of suffering” of human life. On the side opposite the viewer stand three large stones signifying the Buddha and his two main disciples.
  • The Dragon Gate Falls
    The Dragon Gate Falls
    This dry stone construct represents the Dragon Gate Falls on the upper Yellow River in China. It is said that a carp capable of jumping these falls will transform into a dragon; in Zen this has become a symbol for a person attaining enlightenment and becoming a Buddha.
  • The Animal Stones
    The Animal Stones
    In the pond and near the opposite shore are two sets of smaller rocks representing animals swimming toward the Buddha.
  • The Lion Rock
    The Lion Rock
  • The Blue Rock
    The Blue Rock
  • The Boat Stone
    On the near side of the dry pond is a stone representing the boat that ferries human beings from “this shore” (the world of suffering) to the “other shore” (the world of enlightenment).
  • The Split Rock
    This large rock has been split by the roots of a pine (of which all that remains is the stump), an apt example of the power of sustained effort.
  • The Echo Rock
Eleven-faced Kannon Bodhisattva

Eleven-faced Kannon Bodhisattva

The central image enshrined in Hōgon-in’s main hall is that of Eleven-faced Kannon Bodhisattva; flanking this are thirty-three smaller attendant Kannon images.

  • Jizō Bodhisattva
    Jizō Bodhisattva
    This image of Jizō Bodhisattva is said to have been venerated by the shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358), the founder of the Muromachi Shogunate.
  • The Hall of Boundless Light
    The Hall of Boundless Light
    The Hall of Boundless Light is a columbarium where the ashes of deceased believers are enshrined.
  • The Arashiyama Rakans
    The Arashiyama Rakans
    In front of the main gate of Hōgon-in stand the Arashiyama Rakans (a rakan is a fully enlightened Buddhist sage), which signify Hōgon-in’s hopes for world peace and the spiritual liberation of all beings.
Sliding-panel paintings

Sliding-panel paintings

The 58 sliding-panel paintings in Hōgon-in’s main hall, by the famous modern painter Noriko Tamura, show the thirty-three different forms of Kannon Bodhisattva manifesting in the world in order to liberate living beings.