Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto

4 out of 5 stars 4 Stars - 26 Reviews

Been here? Rate It!

hide
  • Ryoanji Temple
    by Ewingjr98
  • Ryoanji Temple
    by Ewingjr98
  • Ryoanji Temple
    by Ewingjr98
  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Ryoan-ji Temple: the Zen garden and pavilion

    by toonsarah Written Dec 18, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    4 more images

    I am fascinated by the different forms of Japanese garden design and wanted to see as varied a sample as possible in our limited time in Kyoto. I read about the famous Zen garden at Ryoan-ji Temple and knew it would give us a different perspective on this ancient art. And so it did.

    This style of garden dates from a period in Japanese history when interest in Zen Buddhism was at its height, in the late 14th-16th centuries. At this time gardens became smaller, simpler and more minimalist, but most retained many of the same elements as before, including ponds, islands, bridges and waterfalls. However, an extremely minimalist version emerged, the Karesansui dry garden, which uses nothing but rocks, gravel and sand to represent all the elements of the landscape. This example at Ryoan-ji is one of the most famous in the country.

    It is rectangular in shape, enclosed by a clay wall. Arranged within it are fifteen stones of different sizes, composed in five groups: one group of five stones, two groups of three, and two groups of two stones. These stones are surrounded by white gravel which is carefully raked each day by the monks. The only vegetation is some moss surrounding each group of stones. The garden is intended to be viewed from a seated position on the veranda of the hōjō, the pavilion that serves as the residence of the head priest.

    At first glance it may seem random, though elegant in its design. But everything is very deliberate. The stones are placed in such a way that it is impossible to see the entire composition at once from the veranda. They are also arranged so that when looking at the garden from any angle (other than from above) only fourteen are visible at a time. Tradition holds that only through attaining enlightenment could a person view all fifteen.

    And the wall too is part of the design. The clay has been mixed with rapeseed oil to give these brown and rust-coloured tones, intended to set off the whiteness of the gravel by absorbing light, and to create a neutral background that focuses attention on the stones.

    It isn’t known who designed this garden, and although there are many theories, no one can say for sure what it is intended to represent. Some say it is an abstraction of a tiger and her cubs crossing a river, but that appears to refer to an earlier version of the garden that had only nine stones. Some say these are small islands in the ocean, or mountain peaks emerging through a sea of cloud. Others have suggested that the arrangement of the rocks relates to the character for “heart” or that there is some hidden geometry behind them. It is probably best to simply accept that they are as they are because someone wanted them to look exactly like this, rather than minimise their potential impact by straining to find an unintended meaning.

    You cannot go inside the pavilion here but instead walk around its veranda (shoes off, naturally) to view the famous garden from a platform. Be warned – this is a popular spot and you may need to wait your turn to view it from a perch at the edge. While you wait you can peer inside to see the beautifully painted screens (photo four).

    On the far side of the pavilion (that is, away from the garden) the building is surrounded by trees and moss, and there is a famous stone washbasin (photo five) known as Tsukubai, which is said to have been contributed to the temple by Tokugawa Mitsukuni in the 17th century. It has a simple but meaningful four-character Zen inscription: "I learn only to be contented".

    When we’d walked right round the pavilion we went on to explore the rest of the gardens here.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Ryoan-ji Temple: the rest of the gardens

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 18, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Kyoyochi Pond
    4 more images

    Although Ryoan-ji Temple is best known for its Zen dry garden, there is much more to it than that. Its pretty pond garden is also well worth exploring, and its lush greenery all the more refreshing as a contrast to the white gravel and bare rocks of the former. This is Kyoyochi Pond, built in the 12th century when this site still served as an aristocrat's villa. There are large carp, white ducks and (when we were there in mid October) pink water lilies. The path round the pond leads past the small stone bridge that will take you on to the islet with a little torii gate and shrine, and past a large stone Buddha statue (photo five).

    The leaves were just starting to turn when we were here, adding to the beauty of the scene. Towards the end of our walk we came across a small café where we sat outside and had one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve come across – a sort of lemonade with a blob of what tasted like marmalade in the bottom of the glass. I don’t know what this was called – a waiter with limited English helped us to order from the “pay first and take a slip” machine, and all we knew for sure was that we were ordering a cold drink that wasn’t cola! We sat outside on shady benches and enjoyed a pleasant rest before heading off to our last temple for the day, Kinkaku-ji.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo

    Ryoanji Zen Buddhist Temple and Gardens

    by Ewingjr98 Written Oct 18, 2013
    4 more images

    Ryoanji Temple is a Zen Buddhist temple of the Rinzai Sect. The temple features a large, lily-covered pond near the entrance, with a temple on an island; a famous Zen garden crowded with tourists; and lots of trails through moss-covered forests. In 1994 this temple was added as one of the Kyoto World Heritage Sites.

    The temple was established in 1450 on the site of a country house belonging to the Tokudaiji Clan. The temple was soon destroyed in the Onin War, but it was rebuilt in 1499. The Zen garden, called Hojo Garden, features only gravel and 15 rocks, but it is said to represent nature (some say the garden garden resembles a tiger and its cub crossing a stream).

    Entrance is 500 Yen for adults. The temple can be access from the Renden Streetcar Line at Ryoanju Station.

    Was this review helpful?

  • jlanza29's Profile Photo

    One of many World Heritage sites in Kyoto

    by jlanza29 Written May 5, 2012

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Famous Rock Garden
    3 more images

    It is Japan's most famous "hiraniwa" (flat garden void of hills or ponds) and reveals the stunning simplicity and harmony of the principles of Zen meditation.

    Ryoan-ji Temple is famous for its mysterious rock garden, the most celebrated in Japan, which defies attempts at explanation. Enclosed by an earthen wall, fifteen carefully placed rocks seem to drift in a sea of raked white gravel. A viewing platform right above the garden gives visitors an unimpeded view, although from whatever angle you view the garden, you can never see all fifteen stones.

    After sitting and pondering the garden's "sermon in stone," you can stretch your legs by touring the extensive grounds of Ryoan-ji Temple, which includes larger gardens with trees and moss, and the Kyoyo-chi pond, which is particularly striking in autumn. Once refreshed, you can return to the rock garden for another look before leaving.

    The temple was built in 1450 by a nobleman, Hosokawa Katsumoto, but no one knows for certain when the rock garden was made, who designed it, or what the designer's intentions were. So what does the rock garden signify? You can only find out by seeing it for yourself.

    I must say this was one of the might have been the most beautiful and peaceful place of all the beautiful temples and gardens we visited ..... all you heard was bird's chirping and the wind against the trees !!!!!

    As for the rock garden I was a bit confused, I was expecting something so different but one must adjust quickly and appreciate how beautiful it really is !!!!!

    Admission to grounds are free but to Rock Garden it's 500 yens and you must remove your shoes ... spent about an hour here .....

    Was this review helpful?

  • Toshioohsako's Profile Photo

    Temple of enlightenment

    by Toshioohsako Written Dec 12, 2010
    Rock garden
    4 more images

    Ryoanji (The Temple of the Dragon at Peace) is a Zen temple (1450), located ibn the Northwest of Kyoto. Its famous "Karesansui" rock garden (UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage Site) is consists of 15 moss-covered boulders. Its a place for meditation and enlightenment. The interior of the "Kur"-the main temple building is a well-conserved house and one can see the essence of Japanese house architecture. The garden is superb with a beautiful bridge and a large pond. Its a good place for promenade.

    Was this review helpful?

  • thinking's Profile Photo

    WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE GARDEN AT RYOANJI?

    by thinking Written Jul 14, 2010

    1.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    In December 1994, this temple was designated as World Heritage by UNESCO. Ryoanji (Temple of the peaceful dragon) is in the northwest section of Kyoto, not far from Kinkakuji. This is a temple belonging to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai branch of the Zen sect.

    For a wonderful description, please see http://www.yamasa.org/japan/english/destinations/kyoto/ryoanji.html

    Related to:
    • Spa and Resort
    • Family Travel
    • Seniors

    Was this review helpful?

  • bladedragon's Profile Photo

    Ryoan-ji

    by bladedragon Updated Jun 30, 2009

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Ryoan-ji
    1 more image

    Hosokawa emperors (Uda, Kazan, Ichij¡§¡©, Go-Suzaku, Go-Reizei, Go-Sanj¡§¡©, and Horikawa) are enshrined in what are today known as the "Seven Imperial Tombs" at Ryoan-ji.

    An object of interest near the rear of the monks quarters is the carved stone receptacle into which water for ritual purification continuously flows. This is the Ry¡§¡©an-ji tsukubai, which translates literally as "crouch;" and the lower elevation of the basin requires the user to bend a little bit to reach the water, which suggests supplication and reverence. The kanji written on the surface of the stone are without significance when read alone. If each is read in combination with Ï¢ (kuchi), which the central bowl is meant to represent, then the characters become çî, êæ, ðë, ò±. This is read as "ware tada taru (wo) shiru" and translates literally as "I only know plenty" (çî = ware = I, êæ = tada = only, ðë = taru = plenty, ò± = shiru = know).
    The meaning of the phrase carved into the top of the tsukubai is simply that "what one has is all one needs" and is meant to reinforce the basic anti-materialistic teachings of Buddhism.
    The absence of a dipper is intended to imply that the water is for the soul only and that it is necessary to bend the knee in humility in order to receive its blessing.

    To many, the temple's name is synonymous with the temple's famous karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden, thought to have been built in the late 1400s. The garden consists of raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders, which are placed so that, when looking at the garden from any angle (other than from above) only fourteen of the boulders are visible at one time. It is traditionally said that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteenth boulder.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Rabbityama's Profile Photo

    Travel With the Blind

    by Rabbityama Updated Jan 11, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Ryoanji's Zen Rock Garden
    4 more images

    Although I've never personally gone touring with a blind person, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to find places that a blind person can enjoy. If you have struggled to find such places in Japan, Ryoanji may be just what you are looking for!

    Just before entering the famous Zen rock garden in Ryoanji, if you take the time to look around, there is a small recreation of the rock garden a few paces from the souvenir shop. If you wonder what this is for, it is a brilliant recreation of Ryoanji's rock garden made for those who are blind! You are allowed to touch this tiny recreation of the zen garden, so a blind traveller can feel EXACTLY where each rock is located and how the garden is layed out. There is brail there, as well however, in the event that the brail is only Japanese brail, you can use the brochures and pamphlets you received when you payed to enter to read to the blind person as they feel the rocks. Because of this wonderful replica of the garden, blind travellers can appreciate the beauty and aesthetic value of Ryoanji the same as anyone else! There are not so many places in Japan that cater to blind tourists, so Ryoanji could easily be the highlight of a trip to Japan for a blind traveller!

    Entry fee is 500 yen.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel
    • Disabilities

    Was this review helpful?

  • RACCOON1's Profile Photo

    RYOAN-JI TEMPLE

    by RACCOON1 Updated Oct 11, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    RYOAN-JI ENTRANCE
    4 more images

    A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE.

    A ZEN BUDDHIST Rock Garden established in and around 1480. Measures approximately 10 meters by 24 meters with 15 rocks on a raked stone base.

    Its shoes off to enter the complex.

    The meaning is:
    (1) Unknown
    (2) up to the vistors interpretation
    (3) or - " you cannot see all rocks as separated entities " When you become enlightened you are able to see the 15 rocks as separated entities.
    (4) many others.

    Regarding # 3. You can only view the garden from one side so the hypothesis cannot be confirmed or proven. The viewing area is elevated which gives you an advantage and you can see all 15 rocks.But you cannot see rocks #14 and #15 as separate entities.

    The surrounding Garden is worth a walk.

    After RYOAN-JI its a short walk down hill to the Ninnaji Temple.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Gryphon25's Profile Photo

    The Perfect Garden

    by Gryphon25 Written Oct 6, 2007

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    2 more images

    This Zen Garden is ment to be the best or perfect zen Garden in Japan. It is very quite and peaceful. Take a walk around the whole temple. To the one side there is an over hanging of trees and the moss underneath looks as soft as a mattress. Take your time and mediate if you know how.

    Cost Y 500

    Was this review helpful?

  • yukisanto's Profile Photo

    When you need time to daydream

    by yukisanto Written Feb 1, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    building of ryoanji
    2 more images

    Ryoanji is basically just a simple building with the famous zen garden - nothing else to see. That said, go and see it - it's' a good place to daydream if you don't want to sit and guess at the number of stones you can see. It's said you can't see all 15 stones at any angle, but of course that's the way it'll be when you hide small stones behind big stones.

    It's 15mins west of kinkakuji and 10min east of ninnaji. Cost 500yen. Opens from 8-5pm
    Take bus 205 from kyoto station

    Was this review helpful?

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo

    Ryoanji Temple - Zen and meditation

    by SLLiew Written Aug 23, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This is my second favorite temple in Kyoto. I wish there was more time to just sit and contemplate looking at the rocks placed in a sea of raked designed fine gravel sand. There are like a world of islands in the sea. I also like the moss gardens and the gardens of this temple. You probably have seen many pictures of Ryoanji but spend a few minutes here when you are in Kyoto. It is one of a kind temple.

    Was this review helpful?

  • caravaggio's Profile Photo

    RYOAN-JI

    by caravaggio Written Jul 28, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    One of the famous ji's or pavillıons or temples:) of kyoto and also japan. It has got a very huge lake in its garden and you can also get into the temple. Its just below (5min walk) from Golden temple. You will meet many tourists and cant find much more interesting than its stone garden.

    Related to:
    • Women's Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Castles and Palaces

    Was this review helpful?

  • traveldream's Profile Photo

    Meditate in Zen Garden

    by traveldream Written Dec 29, 2005

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Zen Garden in Ryoanji

    There are 15 stones in the Zen garden inside Ryoan-ji. But most people only see 14 of them. Where is the 15th? Only the enlightened one can see...

    I was kidding. Well, not entirely. There are 15 stones, but most people see only 14. If you find the right position to sit or stand, you can see all the stones.

    I was there on a rainy day in autumn, pretty exhausted. It was calming to sit there although I didn't really understand the garden... ;)

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • ClareyD's Profile Photo

    Ryoanji Temple (the Zen Rock Garden)

    by ClareyD Written Apr 3, 2005

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Pristine Gravel

    This is one of the classic Kyoto temples and all for different reasons to the others. Ryoanji is a Zen Buddhist temple and rather than a stunning landscape garden the garden here is rocks and stones. The monks spend hours every day carefully raking and arranging the gravel around the larger stones in the garden and their attention to detail is reflected in the results.

    Best time to be here is very early in the morning, it opened at 8.30am in March when we were there, but in summer it opens at 8am. We arrived around 9am and it was very quiet so we had a chance to sit and appreciate the silence and the stillness of the garden. Just as we left around 9.30am the busses were arriving.

    The temple also has some nice grounds with a pond that you can walk around on your way out.

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Kyoto

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

92 travelers online now

Comments

Hotels Near Ryoanji Temple
5.0 out of 5 stars
1 Opinions
0.3 miles away
4.0 out of 5 stars
2 Opinions
0.7 miles away
Show Prices
4.0 out of 5 stars
52 Opinions
1.1 miles away
Show Prices

View all Kyoto hotels