The present complex of buildings and garden known as the Kankyuan occupies a large parcel of land in north central Kyoto. The front of the lot, measuring 26.4 meters across, faces Mushakoji Street. There are two entrance gates. The depth of the lot from north to south is 52.2 meters.
A path winds along the southern edge of the Hanpoan and the Kansuien.It turns north at the southeast corner of the Kansuien and leads to theAmigasamon. The Amigasamon, which is the middle gate leading to the Kankyuan, is located just a short distance north of the Kodoan.
Each tea room, with the exception of the Gyoshutei, has a garden entrance onto this path. Near each entrance are the requisite stone lantern and hand washing basin. Small covered waiting pavilions are located in the northeast and southeast corners of the garden.
Originally at this site there was a tea room called the Ippoan (One Path Hall) designed by Jikisai the 7th. However, the next Grand Master, Ittotsusai renovated it and renamed it the Hanpoan (Half Jewel Hall). This tea room was destroyed in the great fire of 1854. The present four-and-a-half mat Hanpoan was desgned by Isshisai the 11th.
Alcove and host’s place of Hanpoan
It has a deep square alcove and a central pillar along the eastern wall. The formal entrance from the garden into this room is in the southern wall. It is unusually large and requires two doors to cover it, but when these doors are removed, a wide vista of the garden can be enjoyed from inside the room.
Garden leading to Kansuien
The Kansuien (Surrounding Green Garden) is eight mats in size, but the alcove occupies one entire mat along the western wall. This room is adjoined by a six-mat room to the north and another long, narrow three-mat room, the Saya-no-ma (Sword Sheath Room) to the east. The Kansuien was originally designed by Jikisai the 7th, in the 18th century for the Yagura family, who were wealthy merchants serving the feudal lords of Fukushima prefecture. In the late 19th century, Isshisai the 11th, had this tea room dismantled and reconstructed at the present location. He added the Saya-no-ma at the same time.
Alcove and host's entrance of Kansuien
Eastern garden of Kansuien
Interior of Gyoshutei
This small three-and-three-fourths mat tea room is called the Gyoshutei (Gliding Boat Hall) because the ceiling of the room is made in the shape of the bottom of a boat. The boat-shaped ceiling and the raised window, together with the cool breezes that blow in from the garden remind one vividly of floating down a river. This tea room can serve as a passage-way from the Kansuien to the other tea rooms. For this reason, it does not have its own entrance from the garden; but because of its informal nature and the features mentioned above, the Gyoshutei can be used in various ways.
The Sodo (Founder's Hall) is dedicated to the originator of the tea ceremony, Rikyu.It was constructed in the late 19th century by Isshisai the 11th.It is a four-and-a-half mat tea room. The focal point of this tea room is along the northern wall, which is divided into two equal parts. The right half has a circular window, behind which there is an alcove with a lacquer floor. A wooden sculpture of Rikyu is enshrined here.
Alcove and Rikyu sculpture with circular window of Sodo
On the left is an open recessed alcove with the rear wall made at an odd angle to the rest of the room. The main pillar of the alcove is made from an old saratsubaki log (a variety of camellia) from a tree in the precincts of the Soken-in of Daitokuji temple in Kyoto.
One of the symbols of Mushakoji Senke is the Amigasamon. This middle gate of the garden path marks the entrance to the path leading to the Kankyuan tea room. It is called by this name because the roof resembles an amigasa, a large rain hat usually made of woven bamboo. The gate is made of double doors which swing outward toward the guest. They are simply constructed, using vertical and horizontal bamboo sticks in such a way as not to block the view of the path beyond. This suggestive style of construction together with the light which comes through the gate creates a perfect harmony with the garden where the principle is to make a small area appear more spacious and timeless.
The Kankyuan is the prototypal tea room of the Mushakoji Senke Tea School as it was designed by the founder of the tea school, Ichio the 4th, shortly after the mid-l7th century. Although the Kankyuan has been destroyed by fire three times (1772, 1788 and 1854), it was carefully reconstructed each time by the Grand Master of the time.
Alcove and host's entrance of Kankyuan
One outstanding feature of the Kankyuan is the placement of a 15.6 cm-wide board between the only two mats, the host's mat and the guest's. This board divides the room clearly into two halves, providing a space between the host and the guest, thereby maintaining a certain physical and psychological distance.
Another interesting feature is the use of a small sliding door in the north wall. The host sits along the door, through which utensils can be directly passed into or out of the room without the host having to leave the room.
Interior of Gyobunkaku
Alcove of Gyobunkaku
In 2005, an unused room on the second floor was converted into the Gyobunkaku (the Looking-up-at-the-Character Hall). The Daimonji bonfires-in the shape of large Chinese characters-could be seen from its windows.
It's a seven-and-a-half mat room all painted in black lacquer. An alcove in the northern corner, has a staggered wooden shelf and wave patterns (Natorigawa) painted on its lacquered base-board. The northern section of the ceiling is flat while the southern section is shaped like the bottom of a boat. Windows open to the north, south and east, filling the room with natural light.