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If you would not know much about Japanese gardens, you might get the impression that _the_ rock garden exemplifying Zen Buddhism is at Ryōan-ji. Iconic in its own right, Ryōan-ji’s karesansui-style garden, to many — Japanese and foreigners alike — remains the image that comes to mind when thinking of Zen gardens. Yet, technically, Ryōan-ji is “just one” of many similar gardens found all around Kyōto. Still, Ryōan-ji is special, as it is very geometric in its construction, and has this sort of layout to it that even amateurs like me can immediately recognize.
Ryōan-ji, however, technically a sub-temple of nearby Myōshin-ji, is more than its rock garden at the Hōjō. A large pond is just below the main hall, and there, cherry blossoms, sea roses, maple foliage and more wait to be discovered.
Unfortunately, due to its fame, Ryōan-ji tends to get VERY crowded — which is a reason why I have went only twice since moving back to Kyōto in 2015. The photos you see here are from the third Covid state of emergency in May 2021, when I was able to enjoy the temple as a tranquil space of Zen Buddhism. It was only then, I have to admit, that I understood why Ryōan-ji draws so many visitors. Just sitting down there and gazing at the garden was very special.

Admission: open year-round.
Nearby places of interest: Tōji-in, Ninna-ji, Myōshin-ji.

Shinnyodo 2017.jpg

Japan's most famous karesansui-style garden.

Spring 春
Summer 夏
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