Shinsen-en is all that now remains of Emperor Kammu's original palace and pleasure garden built from 794, when the capital was moved to Kyoto (Heian-kyo).
Shinsen-en is now a sub-temple of Toji Temple in the south of the city below Kyoto Station.
Shinsen-en was once much larger, about 10 times bigger covering 33 acres, in fact, and was part of a walled Chinese-style pleasure garden built by Emperor Kammu to the south of his main palace. Shinsen-en stretched between Nijo to Sanjo streets.
Due to numerous fires nothing remains of the Emperor Kammu's original structures and the garden has survived as the Tokugawa authorities allowed Toji Temple to construct a sub-temple here along with three small Shinto shrines.
Shinsen-en garden was once the playground of the Heian nobility who held moon-viewing and boating parties on the lake. The name of the street on which Shinsen-en stands, Oike Dori, harks back to the glory days of the garden as it means "Honorable Pond" street.
Shinsen-en has been restored to resemble its original layout with the Hojuju-ike pond at its center. The pond has a small island in the middle reached by a stone bridge and the curving vermillion bridge (pictured). The island contains a shrine to the Dragon Queen, who was believed to inhabit the waters of the pond. The main hall of the sub-temple, Shinsen-den, contains an image of Kobo Daishi (Kukai), who is associated with the place.
The other two shrines in Shinsen-en are to Benten and Inari. There is a restaurant in the garden with lovely views. The Shinsen-en plays host to performances of Kyogen in April and May.
Access - Getting To Shinsen-en Garden
Oike-dori Shinsenen-cho higashi-iru
Tel: 075 821 1466
By bus, take bus numbers #50, #101, #9 or #12. The nearest stop on the Kyoto subway is Nijo-jo mae on the Tozai Line.