The Ever So Spiritual Ryōan-ji Temple & Rock Garden in Kyoto

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Meet Japan’s Ryōan-ji Temple in northwest  Kyoto, home to the greatest Zen rock garden ever created. The garden is 3,600 square feet in area and features 15 rocks set in white gravel, all of which are arranged so that one is always hidden from view. Ryōan-ji belongs to the Myōshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism.

Originally an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period, the site was converted into a Zentemple in 1450 and belongs to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, whose head temple stands just a kilometer to the south.  The garden consists of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. An interesting feature of the garden’s design is that from any vantage point at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.

Ryoanji’s garden is viewed from the Hojo, the head priest’s former residence. Besides the stone garden, the Hojo features some paintings on the sliding doors (fusuma) of its tatami rooms, and a couple of smaller gardens on the rear side of the building. In one of the gardens there is a round stone trough that cleverly incorporates its square water basin into a Zen inscription, which students of kanji may be able to appreciate. The Hojo is connected to the Kuri, the former temple kitchen, which now serves as the temple’s main entrance.

Ryoanji’s temple grounds also include a relatively spacious park area with pond, located below the temple’s main buildings. The pond dates back to the time when the site still served as an aristocrat’s villa and features a small shrine on one of its three little islands that can be accessed over a bridge.

It’s a charming walk and a very serene location. I’d recommend adding it to your Kyoto agenda when you’re planning your Japan agenda.

Details:

〒616-8001 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto

Ukyo Ward, Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, 13

Japan

The temple can be reached by the Keifuku Kitano Line, a small train that runs through the calm residential areas of northwestern Kyoto and offers a connection to Arashiyama. To access Ryoanji, get off at Ryoanji-michi Station from where it is a 5-10 minute walk to the temple.

For more posts on Japan, see our Japan section and on Tokyo, visit our Tokyo Japan / top things to do in Tokyo section.

 

Note: Princess Cruises sponsored my trip to Japan, however all side trips and attractions and my opinions of them are entirely my own and are not shaped by taking the cruise with them. 

 

Renee Blodgett
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Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

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