A Rock Garden Containing Many Secrets
A Temple with the Attention of the World
Ryōanji's Main Gate
Ryōanji was initially constructed in the year 1450 but unfortunately burned down soon after. The temple was rebuilt in 1499 and it is said that its famous rock garden was dates from this rebuilding.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who united Japan during the twilight of the warring states period, visited this area countless times and was very fond of it. A signboard bearing an edict passed down by him remains to this day. Perhaps you know how Ryōanji's rock garden became so well known?
When Queen Elizabeth II of England traveled to Japan in 1975, she specifically wished to visit Ryōanji and the adulation she gave to its rock garden was reported on by the media and Ryōanji's name spread all over the world. In 1994 it was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A temple garden enhanced by the pool in the center.
Passing under the main temple gate, one is met by Kyoyochi Pond, a large lagoon which is the centerpiece of the first garden encountered inside the temple grounds. It is said that during the Heian period Kyoto's aristocrats used to take pleasure floating on the pond in boats and reveling in performances of song and dance.
The beauty of the seasons is reflected in Kyoyochi pond. Cherry blossoms blooming in the spring, water lilies floating on the surface in the summer, the bright crimson of the leaves in the autumn, and beautiful snowy scenery in the winter. Each season has its own unique allure. It is from this that Kyoyochi Pond derives its name. The fist character used to write Kyoyochi is the kanji for mirror. T+D31he pond is also known as Oshidori (Mandarin duck) Pond as it used to be known as a place to spot these beautiful birds. Benten Island which sits in the center is interesting to see because it is home to a Shinto torii gate which are rare inside of Buddhist temple grounds.
Please enjoy a leisurely walk around the pond while taking in the beauty of the plants and flowers reflected in the waters.
The Rock Garden
A rock garden with a mysterious aura.
The rock garden that Ryōanji is most known for, with it's landscape of white sand with 15 large and small stones placed without, has many mysteries surrounding it.
The first of which, and largest, is who it was designed by. The garden is estimated to date from Japan's Muromachi period and even though there is an engraving on the back of the stones thought to be the seal of its creator, experts have been unable to determine their identity. The intention behind the placement of the 15 stones is also unknown, and while there are many theories, it is perhaps best that each individual looks out over the garden with their own interpretation.
Then, there is also the wall of the garden which was constructed at an angle. By building the wall at an angle it creates an illusion of additional depth to viewers of the garden. Another mystery is the shear strength of the wall.
The earthen wall reaches a height of almost two meters and during its construction the earth was mixed with plant oils to make it extremely strong and also to prevent light being reflected by the garden's white sand.
A special place where you can face your inner self
The Tsukubai Basin
Another item of note at Ryōanji is the tsukubai basin which is a stone water basin shaped like an ancient coin. Instead of the more common round shape, this tsukubai has a square pool that represents a particle used to complete each of the four Chinese characters surrounding it. The phrase completed with these characters translates to a phrase roughly meaning, "I learn only to be satisfied." The real intent behind the phrase is that it is most important to learn to be satisfied with what you have and if you are spiritually rich you will find true happiness.
With Kyoyochi pond that changes its appearance with the seasons and a rock garden which means different things to different people, a visit to Ryōanji might just be the right opportunity to re-evaluate oneself.
Opening Hours: 8:00~16:30 (Subject to change depending on the season - Please check website.)
13 Ryōanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo-ku, KyotoView in Google Maps
Nearest Station: Keifuku Railway - Ryōanji Station (7 minute walk away)
Nearest Bus Stop: Kyoto City Bus - Ritsumeikan Daigaku-mae (7 minute walk away), Ryoanji-mae (bus stop is directly in front of Ryōanji)
Entrance Fee: 500 yen for adults, 400 yen for middle and highschoolers, and 200 yen for elementary school students.