Ryoanji Temple

Ryoanji Temple is the site of Japan’s most famous Zen rock garden and is extremely popular. The temple is easily reached from Kyoto Station by a direct bus which takes 30mins, or by a small train from northwest Kyoto via Arashiyama district. Also, the temple can be reached from Kinkakuji as it is only a 5min bus ride or a 20minute walk. As you might have guessed after visiting Kinkakuji we took a nice 20minute walk to the Ryoanji Temple. Admission for the temple and it’s grounds was only 500yen (£3.50) and again certainly well worth it!


Ryoanji Temple grounds

To enter the Ryoanji Temple rock garden we first had to remove our shoes and place them in to the wooden racks that were either side of the entrance, this is common when entering a temple or Japanese building with wooden floors, even in some hotels and restaurant you have to remove your shoes. You do come accustomed to this, but at first just leaving your shoes unattended is a bit strange, especially bearing in mind that it was very busy! The Zen garden is wonderfully calm with a built-up walkway running along one side with the other three sides of the garden being surrounded and enclosed by low rendered clay walls. The Zen garden was just immaculate and consists of a rectangular plot of pebbles and 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. One of the interesting features of the garden design is that from any angle viewpoint at least one of the rocks can’t be seen and hidden from the viewer. The temple building that is alongside the garden is the Hojo and the head priest’s former residence. Although the Hojo could not be entered, the inside can be clearly viewed from the outside of which there were some beautiful historical paintings on the sliding doors.  

Ryoanji Temple Zen Garden_2 crop
Ryoanji Temple Map

Originally the site of the Ryoanji Temple was an aristocrat’s villa and was converted into a Zen Temple in 1450 and belongs to the Rinsai sect of Zen Buddhism. The grounds of the temple cover 120 acres which includes scenic mountains.  Within the grounds there is a spacious park area with a large pond that has paths and trails around it, the lake is surround by evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, with the many temple buildings being situated behind it. 

Ryoanji Temple Hojo
Ryoanji Temple Zen Garden_1

The history of the Zen garden is not fully known with the construction date being unknown and the meaning of the garden being unclear, so it’s up to the viewer to find a meaning for him or herself! 

Please find our other Kyoto articles in the 'Kyoto' section of the website.