Water Temple (Shingonshu Honpukuji)

Water Temple (Shingonshu Honpukuji), Awaji, Japan, Tadao Ando Architect & Associates
Project year: 1991
Address: 1310 Ura, AWAJI, Japan
Latitude/Longitude: 34.546354,134.988933

The Water Temple in Awaji Island can be reached from long uphill path traversing the original temple compound and cemetery. The temple was originally constructed for the Shingon Buddhist Sect. One is then directed, indirectly, through a simple series of two gesturing white-washed concrete walls of light and shadow that eventually lead one to what seems like a pool of water. A boundless horizon line about which it infinitely reflects its surroundings of mountains, sky, rice paddies and bamboo groves is formed by the pool to its outermost perimeter. A meditative effect and perhaps implications of a spiritual cleansing is given by the stillness of the water.

The circular pool is divided into symmetrical halves by a concrete stairway that descends down into momentary darkness from the light, below the water, and, eventually, into the sacred space of the Buddhist temple. The interior of the temple is saturated with color, in contrast with the exterior in which there is a monochromatic approach through the white walls and neutral concrete stair. An intense red-orange light which seems to be pulsating from its core is filling the circular space, the inner most and most sacred space of the temple which houses the Buddha statue.

Around the temple
To approach the inner sanctuary, one cannot do it directly but it is necessary to circulate around the inner sanctuary where the color gradually becomes more and more intense and eventually reveals itself as one follows the silky smooth concrete walls to the light source.

The vermilion red color is most intense during sunset as light radiates through a western facing window. As Buddha originates from the west (India), that gives a symbolic meaning to this western light. The precedent for this relationship between temple and western light is Jodo-ji Jodo-jo temple in Hyogo-ken prefecture by Buddhist monk and architect Chogen in 1192.