Construction of Shisendo began in 1640 and was completed in 1641 when Ishikawa Jozan was well into his sixth decade. Envisioned as a quiet retirement villa, he probably did not realize that he would be able to enjoy living there for more than thirty years. Among the many charms of Shisendo is its human scale, near perfect integration of home and garden, and the seamless blend of architectural styles. The idiosyncrasies of the design, such as the combination thatch and tile roof, reflect the individualistic nature of its owner.
The interior features the eponymous room where the walls are lined with the paintings of 36 great Chinese poets, who Ishikawa surely drew upon for inspiration when composing a Chinese style of poetry known as kanshi. Touring Shisendo, one cannot help but appreciate its suitability as an artist’s retreat.
Directions to Shisendo
Shisendo is located in Kyoto, Japan. It is accessible by car, bus, and train. If you take the train or bus, it will allow you to walk by the site of Musashi Miyamoto’s famed duel at Ichijoji Temple while on your way to Shisendo.
Cost: 500 yen (adults), 400 yen (high school students), 200 yen (children)
Hours: Open Daily 09:00-17:00 (Last entry 16:45). Shisendo is closed every May 23 to observe the anniversary of Ishikawa Jozan’s death in 1672.
Phone Number: 075-781-2954 (Japan’s country code is 81)
Taxi: Easiest and most expensive option. There are usually one or two taxis waiting outside for return trips.
Train: Take the Keihan line north to the Demachiyanagi terminus. Switch to the Eizan Line. Please note that the Eizan Line is not connected with the IC card system used by most trains, subways, and buses, so have cash ready for your ticket. Disembark at Ichijoji Station, making sure to exit at the front so the conductor can collect your ticket (he will chase you onto the platform, believe me). Walk east on the main road for about ten minutes.
Bus: Take the Number 5, which serves the east side of Kyoto from Nanzenji Temple in the south to Shugakuin Imperial Villa in the north. Disembark at Ichijoji Sagarimatsu-cho. You can also take the Kita 8 (北8) crosstown bus from Daitokuji Temple to the same stop. Walk east on the main road for about five minutes.
Nearby attractions: Right next door is a shrine honouring Musashi Miyamoto. It makes a good place to get souvenirs for little boys obsessed with sword fighting. The two closest temples are Konpukuji Temple, where the haiku poet Matsuo Basho resided for a year, and Enkoji Temple, which displays a printing press owned by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Right at the end of the road is Tanukidani Shrine, which sells some nice looking traffic safety amulets made out of black-stained wood. Behind the shrine lie 250 steps. Climb these for a look at a shrine building that resembles Kiyomizudera. Further afield lie Shugakuin Imperial Villa, Manshuin Temple, and Ginkakuji Temple.
For a more opinionated perspective on these attractions, please see the following blog links:
Shugakuin: Worth the Effort?
Haiku Poets, a Shogun, and a Swordsman (Covers Konpukuji, Enkoji, Nobotokean, Hachidai Shrine, and Manshuin)
Ginkakuji: Silver Pavilion Under a Fiery Mountain
For directions in Japanese, please visit Shisendo’s official website.