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Girljin in Japan By Rachel Tranter Davies

The Glass Teahouse in The Trees
A hike on the Shogunzuka Hill

Perching above Kyoto City, nestled amongst ageold camphor trees and sitting atop a wooden stage overlooking the cityscape below, the Glass Teahouse ''Kou-an'', designed by artist Tokujin Yoshioka, is an installation which perfectly demonstrates the energy of nature and its deep connection to Japanese culture.

By far my favourite vantage point in the city, the Shogunzuka Mound and the wooden observation deck of the Blue Dragon Hall (Seiryu-den) that the Glass Teahouse adorns, are perfectly placed, as if floating amongst the morning mist of the Higashiyama mountains. Here is said to be the spot where Emperor Kanmu first laid eyes upon the valley below and where he ultimately chose to build the ancient capital of Kyoto.
*The glass tea house is open until September 10.

Seiryu-den, part of the Shoren-in Temple complex, is a converted martial arts dojo, originally built during the Taisho period (1912-1926) and a wonderful place to pass a few hours in the peaceful gardens or sitting in quiet contemplation in the stunning wooden structure of the great hall. There are unobstructed views over Kyoto from the observation decks and perhaps the most stunning aspect is Yoshioka's glass tea house that is bathed in light, close to the heart and sights of nature, it's transparency giving a sense of openness and calm. There's a special energy at Seiryu-den that seemingly creates a feeling of utter relaxation and integration with nature evoking the true sense of old Japan that visitors and tourists are longing to experience.

Personally, I'd put Shogunzuka at the top of my Higashiyama sightseeing list. The buildings, their backdrops, the feelings. There's a spiritual connection to nature that is hard to find elsewhere. Shogunzuka is easily reached by bus or taxi and there is a picturesque hike up the mountain from a trailhead behind Chion-in Temple, which starts from a gate to the rear of the big bell. The hike takes around 45 minutes and sturdy shoes are required, but it’s a wonderful way to experience a different side to Kyoto.

Shogunzuka Hill
(Part of the Shoren-in Temple Complex)

Open: 9:00-17:00 (last entry 16:30); Admission: 500 yen; Access: A 5-min. by taxi from Keage Subway Station or a 30-min. on foot from Shoren-in Temple. Shuttle bus service is available between Sanjo Keihan Station and Seiryu-den Hall on weekends (230 yen).
The glass tea house is open until September 10.


Rachel is a food, drink and travel writer. Originally from England, she recently relocated to Japan and is now finding her feet in Kyoto. You can find her blogging tweeting and instagramming her experiences at Girljin in Japan.