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Visiting Souraiken in Onomichi

2011.07.09

For this time, I revisited “Souraiken” located within Onomichi City as well. This garden is well known as having “Myokian, ” which is a copy of the national treasure “Myokian, Machian (waiting hermitage)” made by Rikyu. Onomichi is the place where two out of three most significant Chashitsu (a tea ceremony room,) including the oldest copy of “Ennan” at Jyoudoji, one of finest temple in western Japan, can be found.

Originally the word “Utsushi (copy)” is utilized in versification, but latter steadily used for tea ceremony room, tea gardens, and tea utensils.
The song or poet initially created is called “Honka (original song)” and a copy of that is called “Utsushi,” of which oldest one would turn to be original in case of fire or so if the original one were lost. That is a quite important roll even it is called a copy.

Big traders called business tycoons were flourished by vigorous economic activity taken place mostly on the harbor area of Onomichi from the early Edo period.The figure representing that merchants was Kichibei Hashimoto, who built the garden “Souraiken.” Hashimoto was a person who has contributed greatly to the development of Onomichi, founder of National Bank of Sixty-Six, which was currently known as Bank of Hiroshima.

Now, let me see the garden.
Approaching paths lead to the tearoom from both mountainside and seaside because of the idea based on geological character that Onomichi is close by to both mountain and sea.
Machiai (the waiting room) from the mountainside approach was located close to the entrance in order to make a focal point that intends the depth of the garden.
Landscaping along the garden path used natural stones with a touch of local mountain range, expressing the severity of mountain landscape, composed a rich sequence of steppingstones, a lantern, and a stone basin perceivable warmth of human touch.

Currently the path from seaside was not allowed to use, but genuine cobblestones were paved for welcoming formal guests with a prestigious space. A little bit hilly space was made by the side, and one can imagine that people would welcome guests by standing there. There were three-way split boulders put by the staircase. It could be guessed that the boulders were split because they were too big to carry into the site or because of exaggerating the bigness of boulders, whatever the interpretation would be, the technique is also found in Korakuen in Okayama.

The feature that at most represented that the garden was by the shore, was the method of “Tide in” facilitated at the center of the place. That is the ancient wisdom to enjoy the tide by changing the water level. There was a lantern hidden by the standing boulder on the right, seemingly, to represent the moon lighting up the water. And the standing boulder was divided in the middle on purpose to imply, by some measures, a pudendal stone.

Not to be shown in the picture, but there was a priapusal stone at a small hill on the left, and it would be a quite profound expression if they would represent auspiciousness by placing them as yin and yang.

It was the standard but high density of configuration around the crawl-through doorway of “Myokian.” Then, a rock unusual kind for a garden rock used on the site was found there. It was blacken and glossy like a turtle, and had a distinctive impact for Kininguchi (a standard style of entrance for a tea room.) As a story goes as guests were invited by riding on the good-luck turtle through the Onomichi waterway, it is a quite romantic interpretation. The garden contains various treasures buried in and is truly a space packed with infinite enjoyment for people visiting there.

Even though the garden has various elements within but it is pity that there is no survey map. It would be valuable to take place of survey of the garden as soon as possible in case of the predictable disaster.

Yoshiki Toda

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