Located near the bus stop for world heritage site and national treasure Ginkaku-ji Temple (also known as Jisho-ji Temple). Hakusasonso was built to be the Taisho-Showa era Japanese painter Hashimoto Kansetsu’s home for creating his artwork, and this expansive Japanese garden designed in the chisen kayu style around a central pond with Mt. Daimonji-yama in the background has been designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty. It also serves as an art museum displaying the artworks and collections of Hashimoto Kansetsu.
March of 2019 marked my first visit to Ginkaku-ji Temple in six years, but before I visited the temple, I stopped by this garden and museum, the first time since four years prior. But no matter the day or season, the walking path to Ginkaku-ji Temple is always packed with people—Hakusasonso is a five-minute walk from the entrance to Ginkaku-ji on this path.
Despite the crowds and the location right in front of the bus stop, I spent half an hour in Hakusasonso without seeing another person enter the garden or art museum. Having the space to myself felt nice of course, but I was surprised that the difference in popularity with Ginkaku-ji Temple meant that this tourist spot would have so few visitors . . . ! For this beautiful garden with its impressive view of Mt. Daimonji-yama to have so few people visiting, it really must be a local secret. . . . The entry fee includes admission to the museum as well, so although it may be expensive compared to other temples and shrines, it’s absolutely worth seeing!
*As an added note, I heard that the garden was busy up till last year. The last time I visited, in December 2014, the new art museum had just opened. And so, just like this time, it was perhaps relatively peaceful and quiet then.
Construction of Hakusasonso began during around 1912–1926. The construction of its various buildings, such as the main house built across the Taisho period and the early Showa period (1926–1989), the art studio, azumaya gazebo, jibutsudo hall (a hall for keeping private Buddha statues) and numerous tea rooms housed in a western-style building, continued on the 10,000-m2 grounds for 30 years. Aside from buildings, old stone artworks from the Heian period (794–1185) through the Kamakura period (1185–1333) have also been placed on these premises. One of the unique characteristics of Hakusasonso is that the specifications for the garden and buildings were designed entirely by Hashimoto Kansetsu himself.
The Japanese garden that stretches across a large portion of the property, as mentioned before, features a beautiful view of Mt. Daimonji-yama in the background. Also, Daigashitsu Zonkoro (“Grand Atelier Zonkoro”), the two-story building at the edge of the lake, was an atelier as its name suggests (taking photographs is permitted in the garden but not inside the atelier). You can enjoy different views from every angle as you walk through the various structures that dot the garden—the thatched roof azumaya gazebo called Nyohotei, and the Isui-tei and Keijaku-an tea rooms.
Plus, the second-floor terrace of the Hashimoto Kansetsu Museum directly faces Mt. Daimonji-yama. It’s an incredible view!
There is also a dining hall and restaurant, NOANOA, on this property facing Ginkakuji-michi, the road to Ginkaku-ji Temple. The western-style structure in which NOANOA is housed is a building constructed in the early Showa period. It is also a registered National Tangible Cultural Property with the name “Hakusasonso Western-Style Hall.”
Besides this site, Gesshin-ji Temple in Otsu City (close to Kyoto’s Yamashina district), an area associated with Hashimoto Kansetsu, is also worth a look. This temple, originally a home, belonged to Hashimoto Kansetsu, and there is a Japanese garden here too. However, there is an application system to visit this temple which normally restricts visitors to groups of 10 people or more. It’s a shame that most free-and-easy travelers won’t really have a chance to see it. . . .
(I visited in December of 2014 and March of 2019. The information below is accurate as of when I was there. Please check the relevant official websites for the latest information.)