Located in Kyoto, Ryoanji Temple is another great temple to visit. Most people see Japan as a technological country on the cutting edge or a country steeped in tradition and full of temples. Japan is both and so much more.
Photo Credit: KentaroOhno@flickr
This Zen temple is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Historic Monument of Ancient Kyoto. Like many temples, Ryoanji Temple wasn’t always a temple. In fact, the land was originally part of an estate belonging to the Fujiwara family, some of the features from the original estate are still present in the temple today.
For example, the large water feature that was constructed in the 11th century can still be seen today. However it wasn’t until 1450 when another warlord took over the estate and established his own residence, then the Ryoanji Temple was built. A few years after the temple was completed, it was destroyed in a civil war and later rebuilt. This temple houses a number of emperors, their resting place is known as the “Seven Imperial Tombs”.
Perhaps the biggest attraction at Ryoanji Temple aside from it’s history is the Zen garden or rock garden that sits in front of the main hall. Historians argue about who built it and when it was built, but currently it is accepted that the garden was built in the later half of the 15th century. Although you will find those who believe the garden was built much later.
The first description of the garden came at end of the 17th century. The description is slightly different from what can be seen today. A fire in the 1770’s destroyed some of the buildings. The design of the Zen garden is very deliberate and was meant to be viewed from the veranda of the abbot residence. The garden itself has 15 large stones and it was designed so that only 14 stones will ever be visible at once.
The philosophy behind this is that once one reaches enlightenment then the 15th stone will become visible. Many scientist and philosophers try to interpret and study the garden’s design. Researchers have gone as far as creating 3D models to explain the optimal viewing angles and its symmetry by building a real model.
Aside from the main garden, there is also a water garden that dates back to the 12th century as part of the original Fujiwara Estate. There is also a tea house and a tea garden that date back to the 17th century. Near the tea house is a famous stone water basin. The water from this basin is used for ritual purification.
Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto will have you feeling a renewed sense of peace. Considering the design of the gardens and the overall historical significance of this temple it is no surprise that this temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whether you are finding enlightenment at the rock garden or are finding your inner peace at the water garden, Ryoanji Temple is a truly magnificent piece of Japanese history and culture.
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Address: 13 Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
Access: 10 minute walk from Ryoanji Station
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (March – November)
8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (December – February)
500 yen (Adults)
300 yen (Children)
Website: Ryoanji Temple