Zen Museum and Gardens

Shinshoji in Hiroshima




‘Zen’ is a word commonly used when describing Japanese architecture, but what does it mean exactly? Does it refer to the path of light and shadow, the building material that has weathered through the years, or the sense of wabi-sabi that the building expresses? KOHTEI is a pavilion in Shinshoji in Hiroshima recently built by the Japanese artist Kōhei Nawa that also demonstrate a vivid impression of Zen.

The pavilion roof is made of numerous layers of thin plank, which are stacked into the shape of an ark that flows atop a sea of pebbles surrounded by bushes and gardens. Strolling on the slightly ascending gravel pathway will lead you to the bottom of the ark; entering the pavilion of dimness from a garden of bright natural light is like a gateway that allows one to depart from the mundane world. Tranquillity of the wave of gravel is solid but surreal at the same time. All these elements work together to make KOHTEI a space for visitors to engage in deeper thoughts and even meditation.

Shinshoji, which is themed as Shinshoji Zen Museum and Gardens, was built in 1965. The vast space is composed of various architectures with unique design, for instance, Ichirai-Tei, the tearoom designed by Sen no Rikyu recreated by the architect Masao Nakamuraa, as well as the temple office designed by Fujimori Terunobu. Walking through gardens of the temple area, visitors are invited to be infused in the intimacy between Zen and Japanese arts.