The Garden of Bolders
Sazareishi-no-niwa, or the Garden of Boulders, is the main garden of Shunkōin temple. The name was derived from many boulders, or sazareishi, in the garden, and those bolders represent the islands of Ise Bay. The Garden of Bolders is prominent because the theme is the Great Shrine of Ise and this garden actually houses a shrine and forest, which enshrine two most important Shintō deities, Amaterasu-ōmikami (a sun goddess) and Toyouke-no-ōmikami (a goddess of agriculture).
There are two reason why this Zen Buddhist temple has the garden, whose theme is the Great Shrine of Ise, which is the head shrine of all Shintō shrines in Japan. The one is that the patron of Shunkōin in the 17th century, Noriyuki Ishikawa, ruled Ise-Kameyama, in present-day Mie Prefecture, and was also an enthusiastic worshipper of the Great Shrine of Ise. The other is that it is common to see Buddhist and Shintō objects enshrined at the same place in Japan because until the Meiji period (in the late 19th and early 20th century), it was a popular belief in Japan that Shintō deities are various forms of the Buddha that existed to save people.
The Garden of Tokiwa
Tokiwa-no-niwa, or the Garden of Tokiwa, is the oldest part of Shunkōin and was built in the late 16th century. This garden is in a shakkei style, or borrowed scenary style. The principle of Shakkei is using a surrounding landscape as a part of a garden. The name, Garden of Tokiwa, is derived from using the landscape of Tokiwa, the northwest part of Kyoto, as a shakkei, or borrowed scenary, of this garden.
This garden has another name, Tsurukame-no-niwa, or the Garden of a Crane and Turtle. Tsuru is a crane, and kame is a turtle in Japanese. A stone lantern next to an old well in the garden represents a standing crane. And, a huge stone structure in the center of the garden represents a sea turtle. In Japan or East Asia, a turtle and crane are the symbols of longevity. Thus, a pair of a crane and turtle is often used a subject of patintings or statue in Japan, like this garden.