KYOTO – The Shokado Garden Art Museum in a suburban Kyoto neighborhood offers a respite to visitors with its distinct seasonal variations of flora as well as recreated tea ceremony houses, calligraphy works and brush paintings — all associated with medieval Japanese Buddhist monk Shokado Shojo.
Versed in Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, Shojo (early 1580s-1639) served as a priest at a temple on Otokoyama hill in what is now the city of Yawata, where the museum is also located.
He was one of the most cultured persons in the period, practicing calligraphy, brush paintings, waka poetry and the way of tea and is considered one of the three masters of the Kanei period of the early 17th century for his brush strokes.
He was also touted for his refined taste in choosing tea ceremony implements.
Opened in 2002, the museum has around 300 items including calligraphy works and paintings associated with Shojo and artworks donated by private citizens. It typically holds around five feature exhibitions each year.
Beyond the entrance, a path beside a pond filled with carp and a bamboo grove leads to a garden with three unique tea houses, which are open to the public in the spring and autumn.
One of them, a thatched roof hut, was relocated from Otokoyama and restructured to recreate the place where Shojo spent his last years. Doubling as a tea ceremony room, the hut is named Shokado.
The monk is perhaps best associated with that name and it is used for Shokado bento, a cross-partitioned meal box devised in the early 20th century. Shojo’s use of a similarly split box for storing tea ceremony tools and tobacco is thought to have inspired the founder of the Japanese restaurant Kitcho to create the serving style. A Kitcho outlet in the museum’s compound serves Shokado bento meals.
“The garden offers an extraordinary world where you think you have slipped into the Edo period,” Director Kazumasa Ishibashi said, referring to Japan’s premodern era. “I hope people will come to feel the seasons and to freshen up.”
Admission to the garden is ¥400 yen per adult. The charge for the museum, which is closed on Mondays, varies depending on the event.
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