Shinsen-en (神泉苑) or Garden of Divine Springs is a surprise discovery, en-route to Nijo Castle. I was a little lost, walking a long way from Nijo Station and not seeing the castle, I wandered into Shinsen-en hoping to get some directions from the kind-looking locals sitting in the shade. I was really glad that I did. This is one of those moments I will always love during travels – not really planning, and stumbling upon a beautiful place or a hidden corner that was not as widely-written as those on my itinerary. In all sense of the experience, a discovery of a hidden treasure.
It is after seeing this beauty that I did some research after I returned from Kyoto. The crimson bridge will catch your eyes when you first enter Shinsen-en.
Hosei Bridge 法成橋 has an elegant curved line, which reflects perfectly in the pond surface, where its strong vermilion seems to quiver with every ripple and every wave.
The azaleas shrubs along the length of the pond made mirror images on the pond surface, that in Spring, is just amazingly beautiful.
Shinsen-en is a remnant of a very large garden, built exclusively for the Imperial family when Kyoto (or its original name, Heiankyo) was first built as a capital in the Heian era. Shinsen-en (lit. Garden of Divine Springs) got its name from its then natural spring waters. Today, only the Hojoju-ike Pond remains – full of koi and some leisurely mandarin ducks.
To further jolt you back to the Heian period, a vermillion pleasure boat can be found anchored at pond in Shinsenen. This must be where the Imperial family and guests sit to admire the cherry blossoms, garden or performance, while having a little drink. I read somewhere that Shinsen-en might be where the very first organized cherry blossom viewing festival took place.
A Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple can be found in Shinsen-en.
And as I exit Shinsen-en, I can’t help but squat by the roadside, trying to get a macro shot of these wildflowers (or some might say weeds). Love their iridescence!
How to get to Shinsen-en Garden
167 Mozen-cho, Nagagyo-ku 京都府京都市中京区御池通神泉苑東入門前町167
Open 9am – 10pm
From Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano line (Platform 32, 33) to the Nijō Station (二条駅). Cross the road of Senbon-dori (千本通）and walk along Oike-dori (御池通).
You can also take the Tozai Line and alight at Nijojomae Station.