One of our last stops in Kyoto was none other than Ryoanji Temple. I knew very little about this place, other than that it was a temple and that Caleb had said it was famous for a rock garden.
Once again, my temple fatigue was kicking in, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ryoanji Temple was beautifully landscaped and extremely peaceful.
Fun Facts About Ryoanji Temple:
- During the Heian Period it was an aristocrat’s villa
- It is currently a zen garden/temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The rock garden attracts hundreds of people each day, but the creator, origin and meaning of the garden are all unknown.
- From any vantage point, at least one of the rocks is always hidden from sight.
- According to the official website of the temple, the rock garden holds four secrets, and it’s up to each individual visitor to contemplate these mysteries.
Looking at Rocks at Ryoanji Temple:
To access the rock garden, you first walk through a beautiful path lined with cherry trees that bloom in the spring. We got there a little bit too early in the season to experience the full bloom, but we still caught a few little blooms here and there.
Once you reach the Hojo Building, you pay the ¥500 fee to enter, take off your shoes, and then are free to spend as much time as you please exploring what used to be the residence of the head priest, and of course, admiring the rock garden which is the main attraction.
I wasn’t instantly impressed with the rock garden, but looking back at our time at Ryoanji, I can appreciate a few things about the way it was constructed.
- The first is that the origins of this popular attraction is unknown. A part of me wonders if this was done on purpose so that the garden would be eternally shrouded in mystery. At the same time, it gives everyone the freedom to come to an artistic conclusion about the garden for themselves.
- The second is the optical illusion that the garden has. At first glance, you wouldn’t realize it, but the wall around the garden isn’t leveled. This enables water drainage, and also creates the illusion of depth.
- The third is that the wall around the garden was built to withstand the test of time (and the elements). Because it was made with clay and rapeseed oil, the wall is able to deflect the heat and glare that comes from the white rocks.
It might just seem like a square filled with simple white rocks, but a lot of thought and precision was put into the creation of the garden.
Should I visit Ryoanji Temple?
Ryoanji Temple felt more open and less crowded than other sites we visited, and there was definitely more to see than just the rock garden. Even though it was interesting to see the garden, what we loved more was walking the different walking paths and taking in the beautiful nature that the temple complex had.
There were a lot of flowers and wildlife throughout, and it was a peaceful place to walk around for a few hours. We really enjoyed our time at Ryoanji Temple, and would encourage any tourist to make it a stop if you’re staying in or passing through Kyoto. It’s worth it!
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Mar. to Nov.)
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Dec. – Feb.)
|No closing days||
Adults: 500 yen
Children: 300 yen