A highlight of the far northern Higashiyama area, Shisen-dō (House of Poet-Hermits) was built in 1641 by Ishikawa Jōzan, a scholar of Chinese classics and a landscape architect who wanted a place to retire. The hermitage is noted for its display of poems and portraits of 36 ancient Chinese poets, which can be found in the Shisen-no-ma room. The white-sand kare-sansui (dry landscape) garden is lined with azaleas, which are said to represent islands in the sea. It’s a tranquil place to relax.
In the garden, water flows from a small waterfall to the shishi-odoshi, or sōzu, a device designed to scare away wild boar and deer. It’s made from a bamboo pipe into which water slowly trickles, fills up and swings down to empty. On the upswing to its original position the bamboo strikes a stone with a ‘thwack’ – just loud enough to interrupt your snooze – before starting to refill.