KYO: Okochi Sanso Villa

Okochi Sanso Villa

Okochi Denjiro as Tange Sazen

After passing through the bamboo path in Arashiyama, I strayed into this huge villa. Okochi Sanso Villa was a private villa of the famous actor, Okochi Denjiro (1898-1962). He constructed this villa and the unique garden over a 30 year period. He was a movie star, but his put all his life to this villa. This is just a private villa of somebody, but it is quite interesting to gaze into somebody’s life. How he felt and what he did, and how he lived in this world.

After I paid the entrance fee, I climbed stairs and walked around this garden. The garden has several kinds of views. On one hand, just after the Daijokaku building in this villa, I saw the great views of Mt.Hiei, Mt.Daimonji, and the city of Kyoto. One of the characteristics of this villa is to make the mountains view most impressive. Also, many cherry trees are planted around the Daijokaku. He intended to make the mountains float on clouds of cherry blossoms. I visited here in June, the season of green, so I regrettably could not see the cherry blossom clouds this time, but I can imagine the passion of him, making wonderful sceneries in each spot, like a movie. That is why this villa and the garden are called “sequence of the beauties”.

Then, I reached the origin of the villa. I love to know the origin of something. What motivated him to have made here. The place is called “Jibutsudo Shrine”. I am not sure why it is called a “shrine”. It seems very much like a small temple of Buddhism. By the way, when he was the age of 27, he experienced the huge earthquake of Tokyo in 1923. After that, he had been thinking to have the place for praying and meditation. At his age of 34, he finally constructed this Jibutsudo.

During working at studios, he often visited here and found inspiration through meditation and prayers. His inspiration eventually lead to the completion of the “Tekisui-An” tearoom and the Daijokaku temple. His creativity ranged from the artistic creation of movies to the planning and building of Japanese gardens. A stronger emphasis is placed on making this garden until his death at the age of 64. I am 33 now, and almost the same age as he started to focus on something which was very very important to his life. I also often think what is important to my life, and found what I would like to do. So, even I am not successful like him, as an individual, his decision and his action cheer me up.

I walked up to the top of the mountain. On the way, I walked under green maple trees, and the garden was filled with moss. I also saw the tearoom, too. At the top, the view was quite different. I saw the Mt.Arashi, and a small temple on the opposite shore of the Hodugawa river. After I continued walking, I again came back to the other side where I could see the city of Kyoto. The “Gekkatei” is a small shady bower, and at the very top of this mountain. (The villa is on the south of the Mt.Ogurayama.) It was really hot and humid, so I cooled myself at the bench of the Gekkatei. 

I started going down the mountain, and arrived at a small museum of Okochi Denjiro. His most successful role was a samurai, called “Tange Sazen”. Tange Sazen is a fictional character of a swordsman and the character is the loyal Sōma clan samurai Tange Samanosuke who is attacked and mutilated as a result of betrayal, losing his right eye and right arm. 
Finally, I came back to the entrance area, and took a rest at a room. They served tea and a Japanese confectionery. After a long walk under the sun, the served Maccha powdered tea was great, and allayed my fatigue.

It was the private villa of Okochi Denjiro, the famous silent-film era actor and also a deep admirer of Zen philosophy. The seemingly endless stroll paths lead to constantly changing views of the classic Japanese garden. A number of pine trees, cherry trees and maple trees seasonally color the vast garden. He planned and constructed this villa over 30 years with the gardener, Rihee Hirose. In late years, it was appointed as cultural assets of Japan.

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When you visit here, I would like to suggest these;
-      To admire the both views of the east (Mt.Hiei & the city of Kyoto), and the west (Mt.Arashi & the Hodugawa river)
-      To visit in the early April to admire the cherry clouds