A small temple located near the Imperial Palace, Rozan-ji is most famous as the site of the former manse where Murasaki Shikibu, author of the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji, spent her years. Now known not only for its impressive history but also its lovely garden, Rozan-ji is most gorgeous when its periwinkle colored bellflowers are in full bloom throughout the grounds. Because of its connection to the Heian Period author, the rooms of the temple are filled with interesting items such as picture scrolls of the classic tale and games played by women of the period. Though the temple only contains a few rooms, an altar, and a garden open to the public, Rozan-ji is a quiet place where you can take a seat and simply enjoy the view.
Rozan-ji is most famous as the site of the former manse where Murasaki Shikibu, author of the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji, spent her years.
Garden of Genji
The only area where Rozan-ji allows photographs is its garden, called the Genji Garden after the main character of Murasaki Shikibu’s novel. A garden composed of moss and gravel, the islands of green amidst the white stones are formed into the traditional shape of clouds used in Japanese art.
Growing up from these “clouds” are various breeds of kikyō, Japanese bellflowers (also known as “balloon flowers”), that bloom in brilliant shades of blue-purple between June and September. With the pine trees casting shadows on to the garden below, the Genji Garden is a soothing place of beauty.
Main Hall & Okurodo Status
What makes Rozan-ji significant as a temple is its strong connection to the Imperial family, being one of four okurodo temples. On display in the main hall you will find statues of Amida Nyorai and his attendants that date to the Heian period, as well as a wooden carving of the temple’s founder, Ganzan Daishi, from the Kamakura period.
Heian Period Keepsakes
Throughout the small rooms that make up Rozan-ji one can find many interesting items that relate to the temple’s history as the former residence where the famous author Murasaki Shikibu spent her life. Games played by Heian Period women such as kai awase, a game of memory that utilizes paintings on seashells, and hyakunin isshu, a poetry card game, show the artistic effort that went into even leisure games in that time period. Numerous screens, hanging scrolls, and picture scrolls also show off Murasaki Shikibu’s writing, as well as other artists’ illustrations of scenes from The Tale of Genji. Please note that the displays are subject to change.
Originally, Rozan-ji was located in the northern hills of Kyoto on Mt. Funaoka. Founded in 938 by Ryōgen (posthumously known as Ganzan Daishi), the 18th chief abbot of Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei, Rozan-ji was home to one of four okurodo, private Buddhist chapels affiliated with the imperial family.
In 1245, a disciple of the priest Hōnen, Kakuyu, revived the temple on Mt. Funaoka and designed it in the image of China’s famous Mt. Lushan, giving it the name Rozan Tendai Kō-ji (Mt. Lushan Tendai Lecture Temple).
Rozan-ji, like many temples and shrines of that time, was burned in the fires of the Ōnin War in the Muromachi period. Rozan-ji escaped a further round of destruction at the hands of warlord Oda Nobunaga during the Warring States period through the interference of one of Emperor Ōgimachi’s consorts, who wrote an official letter requesting the temple be spared.
In 1573, it was moved to its current location beside the Imperial Palace and reconstructed under the city planning of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Nobunaga’s successor, who placed it along his “temple street”, which still survives as Teramachi Street to this day.
This site in fact already had quite the storied history as the former mansion of the Heian period aristocrat Fujiwara Kanesuke. Kanesuke’s great-grandaughter, Murasaki Shikibu, was raised, lived her married life, and had a daughter in this mansion, as well as supposedly died there. Rozan-ji asserts that most of The Tale of Genji was written on the property.
Because of various damage by fire, the current main hall and okurodo at Rozan-ji are dated to 1794, donated by Emperor Kōkaku. Though Rozan-ji’s cemetery is not open to the public, many famous figures are buried here, including Emperor Kyōkō and Heian Period Buddhist sculptor Jōchō.
|Setsubun, Oni Hōraku|
|Ganzan Daishi Tanjō-kai|
〒602-0852 京都府京都市 上京区寺町通広小路上る北之辺町397
- General Admission: ￥500
- Junior High School, Elementary School: ￥400
- Handicapped Persons: ￥400
- General Admission: 09:00 – 16:00
- Closed: February 1st – 10th the temple interior is closed while Setsubun celebrations are held outside.