I was on my way to work when I decided to do a little detour to visit a couple of sites in the local area that I always meant to visit, but never did. Even though it’s been quite a cold winter here in Kyoto (in fact, the morning started with a blanket of snow, but was gone by the time I left my apartment), today was a blue sky sunny day, and warm. It seemed a shame to spend it sitting in my office after weeks of bone-chilling winds and grey dreary skies.
Being that this was once the capital of Japan, it’s no surprise that there are random tombs spread out throughout the city. They are small and unobtrusive, but there are so many more of them than I would have initially guessed. The first one I went to was the Tomb of Reiko Naishinno-haka (Princess Reiko), but I can’t find any information about who she was or when she lived. From there, I wandered north, looking for two other tombs, and ended up in the Myoshoin-ji, a huge temple complex with over 50 sub-temples and other buildings. I’ve been there before, but it’s been years and I forgot what an interesting place it was to visit and photograph. Currently a lot of the subtemples are open to the public, but I didn’t visit any of them because I knew I needed to get to work at some point (let’s just say, that didn’t happen). While I was wandering around I passed by a huge cemetery, but I couldn’t find a way in – everything was walled or fenced off. I think I’ll try to go back this week after all my grading is done and see if I can find it again.
Anyway, after trying to get my bearings, I headed back south to Hanazono station, and from there I found the two other small tombs I was looking for: The first being the tomb of Muneko Naishinno Hanazono-no-Higashi-no-misasagi, daughter of the Empress Teishi, and the second being the tomb of Fujiwarano Shoshi Hanazono Nishi-no-misasagi (Empress Shoshi). Shoshi (988-1074) had an interesting life, being sent to live in Emperor Ichijo’s harem at the age of 12 and becoming a second, concurrent Empress along with his first wife, Teishi. Shoshi’s first son eventually became the emperor, while the second son was the crown prince. As such, she remained an important person for entire life, even after the death of her husband. She surrounded herself at court with interesting people, including Murasaki Shikibu, author of the Tale of Genji. The other empress, Teishi, had Sei Shōnagon, author of the Pillow Book, as part of her court, so it must have been quite an interesting place to be at the time. In any event, their tombs are not particularly grand or interesting to see, but they have a similar aesthetic, with a simple torii gate, surrounded by a simple fence, and each having some raked gravel around it:
Finally, I made my way to Konoshima Shrine, which I first learned about because it has an unusual three-legged torii gate, something that is quite rare here in Japan (most have two legs). It’s located at the back of the shrine grounds, and is unfortunately blocked by a large gate, so the photo below is the best I could get. It would have been nice to get closer, but I can understand why it’s closed off. When I arrived there some guy with a big DSLR was leaving, and when I left there was another camera-wielding couple looking for it. So I guess it’s not as obscure as I thought. Still, it was an interesting little shrine to visit.
Access: I got off the subway at Uzumasatengingawa station and just basically wandered around north of there. Similarly, Hanazono station is even closer to the tombs and Myoshin Temple complex.