Northern Higashiyama

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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Northern Higashiyama attractions

1. Enkō-ji


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2. Manshu-in

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3. Shūgaku-in Rikyū Imperial Villa

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One of the highlights of northeast Kyoto, this superb imperial villa was designed as a lavish summer retreat for the imperial family. Its gardens, with…

4. Takara-ga-ike-kōen

1.16 MILES

This expansive park is an excellent place for a stroll or picnic in natural surroundings. Far from the throngs in the city centre, it is a popular place…

5. Ginkaku-ji

1.17 MILES

Home to a sumptuous garden and elegant structures, Ginkaku-ji is one of Kyoto's premier sites. The temple started its life in 1482 as a retirement villa…

7. Hōnen-in

1.35 MILES

Founded in 1680 to honour the priest Hōnen, this is a lovely, secluded temple with carefully raked gardens set back in the woods. The temple buildings…

8. Shimogamo-jinja

1.38 MILES

This shrine, dating from the 8th century, is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is nestled in the fork of the Kamo-gawa and Takano-gawa, and is approached…