Ryoan-ji Temple is home to Japan’s most famous rock garden. Its simplicity and beauty attract thousands of visitors every year, and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple was originally an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period and was converted into a Zen temple in 1450. It belongs to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.
The history and design of the rock garden are a big mystery. There are a lot of theories regarding its design and function. Many different theories have been said about what the stones in the garden are supposed to represent. Theories include islands in a stream, swimming tigers, the peaks of mountains rising above clouds, etc.
The garden’s shape is rectangular, surrounded by beautiful mud walls. It is composed of fifteen rocks placed in five groups, lying on a flatbed of raked sand and patches of moss. A thick row of deep green trees creates a dark background for the garden, making the gray sand seem very bright.
Apart from small patches of moss around the stones, the garden has no plants, and one of the most interesting points is that you can’t see all 15 rocks at the same time from the terrace.
Ryoan-ji garden’s design is quite complex. The balance of mass and void, the wise use of numbers and patterns make Ryoan-ji garden one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Garden and Pond
After enjoying the rock garden, visitors can then continue to the surrounding green areas. The temple also has a water garden; the Kyoyochi Pond built in the 12th century before the site became a temple. These photos are from our visit in Spring when cherry trees lined beautifully our pathway as we enjoyed the view.
- Address: 13 Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto
- Hours: 8:00 to 17:00 (March to November) and 8:30 to 16:30 (December to February)
- Tel: 075-463-2216
- Closest Station: Ryoanji can be reached from Kyoto Station by JR bus. The bus ride takes about 30 minutes (230 JPN)
- Entrance Fee: 500 JPN