Heart Pond (kokoro no ike)


Heart Pond (kokoro no ike)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


Many temples and some shrines in Japan feature a pond in the shape of the Chinese character HEART, kokoro  toward the exit of the temple grounds. Thus, the heart is washed clean as you leave.
shinji ike, shin no ji ike 字心池, 心字池 (しんじいけ, しんのじいけ)
洗心池 can also be a pond of another shape with special clear well water, where the ascetics have performed ablutions since olden time.

A common saying in Japanese when visiting a place where you feel refreshed and separated from your daily worries is :

kokoro ga arawareta! My heart is washed clean !

Many visitors say this when they sit on the terrases of my Paradise Hermitage (GokuRakuAn) for a short while ... !

Anyway, in olden times, Buddhist ceremonies to let caged animals go (hoojooe, hoojoo-e 放生会 Hojo-E) where performed near these ponds, even fish were freed as a good deed of the donor.

Gabi Greve


The Heart Pond at the temple on Shiraishi Island




Famous Dragon Heart Pond
made by Soami (Sooami 相阿弥) at the temple Shoren-In in Kyoto.
From the Muromachi Period.

伝相阿弥作の龍心池を中心とした池庭: 青蓮院

Look at more photos from this temple:


In Winter
東京都北区 旧古河庭園


Click HERE to see more photos. !!!!!

Light-Up in Summer at the Heart Pond in Hibiya Park
日比谷公園 .. 心字池


Worldwide use

Things found on the way

source : 2933usagi.blog.so-net.ne.jp

hanashi tori - hanashi kame uri 放し鳥 放し亀売り 
vendors of birds and turtles to be set free at rituals

at the Hachimangu Shrines in Edo

woodblock by Hiroshige 広重 - Fukagawa Mannenbashi Bridge

The birds were usually sparrows. Vendors caught the birds and later sold them for the rituals.
Many walked in the streets, some set up a small stall near a bridge or pond.
Eels (unagi) were also sold.

. Doing Business in Edo .

. hoojoo-e 放生会 ritual of releasing living animals .

hanachigame 放ち亀(はなちがめ) setting a turtle free
kigo for mid-autumn

Part of the Buddhist rituals to gain good points in the next life. Many kinds of small animals are set free, birds to fly or fish and turtles in the water.


shin no ji ni mizu mo nagarete ume no hana

water flowing over
the word "heart"...
plum blossoms


More literally, "water also is flowing/ over the word heart..." The mo ("also") suggests that the water is flowing over other things as well, not mentioned. In one text, the poem has the headnote, "Offering at Tenshin Shrine."

This suggests to Robin D. Gill that the character for "heart" may be carved on a stone that is somehow positioned so that water flows over it. The water might be the purifying well water with which people who enter the shrine wash their hands and mouths, flowing into a drain channel containing the carved "heart," or perhaps a stream is flowing through the area, over an engraved stone. Either way, Issa juxtaposes flowing water, the word "heart," and plum blossoms. The deep connection between these three elements of the poem is only hinted at.

Tr. and Comment : David Lanoue

Near the Tenshin Shrine in Kameido (Edo) 「亀戸天神宮」there is a Heart Pond, which is famous for its plum blossoms, but also the wisteria (fuji) later in the year. The shrine is also called: Kameido Tenman Guu.

Check out many photos here:

Tenmangū, Tenmangu in Kameido. Kameido Tenjin 亀戸天神社shrine


. hoojoo-e 放生会 ritual of releasing living animals .
observance kigo for mid-autumn

toku kasume toku toku kasume hanachi-dori

quick, disappear
quick, quick, into the mist
bird, you're free!

Tr. Chris Drake

The hokku is from the 3rd month (April) of 1810, when Issa was in Edo. He later included it in Year of My Life in a section in which he discusses the importance of being kind to animals and not killing living beings. The practice of releasing a caged bird or birds was common at funerals and at prayers for the health of someone who was sick. If the dead or sick person kept pet birds, then these were released in a small ceremony, and if there were no pet birds, then bought birds were freed in a symbolic act of release.

The practice goes back to Buddhist Houjou-e (放生会) or Ceremonies for the Release of Living Beings which are carried out to free living creatures and to remind people that all living creatures in the six paths of existence are related to each other, should always consider and help each other, and should never kill each other. The ceremony came to Japan with Buddhism from China. In Japan, however, it also became part of ceremonies at some Shinto shrines, especially some Hachiman shrines. In Issa's time people released birds, turtles, eels, goldfish and other creatures not only when there was ceremony at a local Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine but also when they were making a special prayer or just when they felt like releasing a fellow creature.

In the hokku, Issa addresses a bird (or birds) that has been released from its cage during a small ceremony. Perhaps the door of the cage has been opened, but the bird doesn't realize it's free yet. Or perhaps the bird has perched on a limb in the garden, hesitant to fly away, and Issa is giving it encouragement.

Chris Drake

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

Related words

***** - kokoro こころ - 心  "heart", mind, soul -
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


1 comment:

Gabi Greve said...

Kameido choo 亀戸町 Kemeido, Kame-Ido "Turtle Well" district