A temple of high status connected to the Emperor
Built initially in 728 on Mt. Hiei as a place of meditation by the monk Saicho, it was moved to its present location in 1656. Officially, it’s known as the Manshu-in Monzeki; a monzeki is a high-status temple whose chief priests were members of the Imperial family. The first generation of chief priests were monks who belonged to the Sugawara clan, and up to the latter half of the 1800s, they concurrently managed Kitano Tenmangu. Even now, shrines enshrining Michizane Sugawara are known as “mangu”. Many of the following are Important Cultural Properties within the temple such as the “kuri” temple kitchen, the “Tora no Fusuma-e” painting by Eitaku Kano in the “o-genkan” grand entrance, the Manshu-in temple shelf made from 10 kinds of wooden mosaic and the ranma screen above the sliding doors in the smaller “Ko-Shoin” parlor. Also, the dry landscape garden, a Place of Scenic Beauty, is well worth seeing. Finally, the existence of the “Hanging Scroll of the Ghost” whose artist and date of creation are unknown is also famous.
Islands compared to cranes and turtles.
The dry landscape garden was designed by the child of Emperor Tomohito who had designed the Katsura Imperial Villa. In front of the “Dai-Shoin” parlor, the white sand is likened to the sea while the green of the moss resembles islands. On Tsurushima (Crane Island), 400-year-old Japanese white pines are planted which resemble a crane’s neck, while on Kamejima (Turtle Island), turtle-shaped pines were planted previously. Incidentally in Japan, it is said that the crane represents a thousand years while the turtle represents ten thousand years so that the two animals stand for long life and prosperity, and are living beings that are good omens. Around the “Dai-Shoin” there are Kirishima azaleas, and in early May, the flowers bloom into a crimson carpet and make for a wonderful contrast with the landscape garden. In autumn, the temple is known for its fall foliage, and there is a beautiful contrast between the bright red leaves and the white sand.