Ryōan-ji(龍安寺)

Ryōan-ji is maybe the most famous rock garden of Japan.

Ryoan-ji was built on the grounds of a villa of the Fujiwara clan in the Heian period (794-1185). The deputy of the shogun and warlord Hosokawa Katsumoto bought the estate in 1450 and built his residence on it, together with the temple Ryōan-ji.

It was destroyed in the Onin War, but rebuilt in 1488 by Katsumoto’s son Matsumoto. It is possible that the garden of the temple was also created at that time, but some scholars argue that it was built earlier by Katsumoto or later, for example, by Zen monk and garden designer Sōami, who also built the dry landscape garden (karesansui) of Daisen-in.

The temple burnt down in 1797, and the garden was recreated later. As a print of the year 1799 shows, the garden today hasn’t changed since that time.

Apart from little patches of moss around the stones, this Japanese garden has no plants. Behind the mud wall a row of trees create a green backdrop for the garden, making the light gray sand seem even brighter. The design is more complex than it seems at first – for example is it impossible to view all 15 stones at once from any angle of the terrace. The composition is also a fine example for the delicate balance of mass and void and the skillful use of numbers and groups.

Contents of the eBook
  • Introduction
  • History of the temple
  • The Rock Garden of Ryoan-ji
  • Around the Rock Garden
  • Sub temples of Ryōan-ji
  • Around the pond
  • How to get there
  • Other temples near Ryoanji

15 pages
37 illustrations/pictures
30 MB
2015

eBook will be delivered as PDF.

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Directions

How to get there
Two bus lines are getting you to Ryoanji – Either take city bus number 50 to the last stop Ritsumeikan-Daigaku-Mae and walk for seven minutes in direction of travel, or take city bus number 59 until the stop Ryoan-ji Mae.
If you are traveling with the trains of the Keifuku Railway line (they look more like trams), you can get off at Ryoan-ji Michi station and walk north for 7 minutes.

Opening hours
March – November: 8:00am to 5:00pm
December – February: 8:30am to 4:30pm

Admission
500 yen

Ritsurin Kōen(高松栗林公園)

This pond strolling period garden was built over the time of more than 100 years – in 1625, daimyo Ikoma Takatoshi began the construction works in the city of Takamatsu. In 1745, the garden was finished. It has six ponds that are all interconnect by little stream, a tea house, an artificial hill and an artificial waterfall. It takes 1 to 2 hours to view the entire garden.

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Directions

How to get there
3 min walk from JR Ritsurin-koen-kitaguchi Station (栗林公園北口)

Address
1-20-16 Ritsurin-cho Takamatsu City、Kagawa-Ken
〒760-0073 香川県高松市栗林町1丁目20−16

Telephone
087-833-7411

Admission
410 Yen

Opening hours
From sunrise to sunset.
January  7:00 – 17:00
February  7:00 – 17:30
March  6:30 – 18:00
April  5:30 – 18:30
May  5:30 – 18:30
June  5:30 – 19:00
July  5:30 – 19:00
August  5:30 – 19:00
September  5:30 – 18:30
October 6:00 – 17:30
November 6:30 – 17:00
December 7:00 – 17:00

Rikugien(六義園 )

One of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo, the Rikugien offers a quiet resting and strolling place in the hectic Tokyo life. It is situated in the quiet neighborhood of Komagome and Sugamo (Bunkyo ward), which are also worth a visit.

The garden is a strolling garden of the Edo period (1603-1868). Samurai Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu built the garden with the permission of the shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi between 1695 and 1702. Originally, 88 famous views from Japanese and Chinese landscapes have been imitated in miniature form in this garden, however, only 32 remain today. The garden’s name translates literally Six Rules Garden and refers to the six basic rules of Waka poetry. Waka translates as “Japanese Poem”, and has its roots in the Heian period (794-1185).

Rikugi-en is one of Tokyo’s finest gardens and offers the visitor an ever-changing landscape. Although its square footage is considerable, the garden feels closed and intimate. We recommend enjoying the view over the garden while having a bowl of green matcha tea in the tea house.

Contents:
  • Introduction
  • History
  • Buildings
  • Bridges
  • Highlights
  • Anikas Impressions
  • Around Rikugien

17 pages full of information about the Rikugien Garden
39 pictures of the gardens

PDF 25MB

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Rikugi-en Video
Watch the Rikugi-en video

Directions

How to get there
The garden is hidden in the quiet neighborhood of Komagome and Sugamo in the north of central Tokyo, but can be reached conveniently by the Yamanote line or the Namboku line, Komagome station. The garden is south of the station.

Address
JP: 東京都文京区本駒込六丁目
EN: 6 Chome Honkomagome Bunkyō-ku, Tōkyō

Admission
300 Yen

Opening times
9:00am – 5:00pm (last entry 4:30pm)
Closed between December 29th and January 1st

Raikyū-ji(頼久寺)

Raikyū-ji is an old temple of the Rinzai school of Buddhism. It is unclear when it was founded, but Ashikaga Takauji, the first shogun of the Muromachi period (1337 to 1573) has rebuilt the temple in 1339. The Zen garden was later laid out by Zen monk, garden designer and tea master Kobori Enshu (1579-1647). The garden is a dry landscape garden, with a Horai mountain, and a crane-turtle stone arrangement.

Directions

How to get there
From Okayama main station, get on the JR Yakumo line 23 (platform 2). After roughly 30 minutes and two stops get off at Bitchutakahashi (備中高梁). From there you can walk to the garden (1 km, 15 minutes)

Opening times
9:00am – 5:00pm

Admission
400 Yen

Address
JP: 716‐0016 岡山県高梁市頼久寺町18
EN: Raikyujicho, Takahashi, Okayama 716-0016

Ōbai-in (Daitoku-ji)(黄梅院)

Ōbai-in is one of the secret sub-temples of Daitoku-ji and has one of Japan’s best-designed Japanese gardens. It is only open for a few weeks in November, which is also the best time for visiting.

The temple was founded in 1562 as Ōbai-an (黄梅庵). Tea master and garden designer Sen no Rikyu (at that time 62 years old) is said to have designed the moss-covered garden. It features a Sanzonseki (stone arrangement in form of a Buddhist triad) and a small pond in the shape of a gourd. There is also an unusually shaped lantern brought by daimyo Kato Kiyomasa from his infamous campaign against Korea.

The Kuri is one of the oldest in Japan, and the paintings on the sliding doors (“Seven sages of the bamboo grove”, painted by Unkoku Togan) have survived from the 16th century until today.

Sen no Rikyu is said to have conducted tea ceremonies in one of the tea rooms of the Shoin (study) called Sakumuken (The dream of last night).

If you have a chance to visit this temple in November, make every effort to do so as it has one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan.

Contents of the book
  • Introduction
  • Daitoku-ji
  • History of Ōbai-in
  • Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi

  • Buildings
  • Hondō (Fusuma-e)
  • Shoin
  • Kuri
  • Shōro
  • Kōshin-in
  • Graves

  • Teahouses
  • Fudo-ken
  • Sakumu-ken
  • Kōshun-an
  • Isshi-an

  • Gates
  • Karamon
  • Omotemon

  • Gardens
  • Entry garden
  • Sabutsu-tei
  • Kanza-tei
  • Jikichu-tei
  • Hatō-tei

Anika’s Impressions
Recommendations around Obai-in
How to get there

12 pages
19 pictures of the temple and gardens
10MB

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Directions

How to get there
Bus: Take the bus 205 or 206 and get off at the stop ‘Daitoku-ji’.

Subway: Take the Karasuma line to Kitaō-ji station and walk about 15 minutes in a westward direction.

Admission
600 Yen
(Discount-ticket in combination with Kōrin-in is available.)

Address
EN: 〒603-8231, Kyoto-Shi, Kita-Ku, Murasakino, 53 Daitoku-ji-Chō
JP: 〒603-8231, 京都市 北区 紫野 大徳寺町53

Opening hours
Open only in late November/ early December, and in spring, between 9:00am – 4:30pm

Nōnin-ji(能仁寺)

Nōnin-ji is a temple of the Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism built in the Azuchi-Momoyama period. The gardens are especially beautiful in early summer, when the hydrangeas are flowering, and in fall, when the leaves of the Japanese maples change their color.

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Directions

How to get there
From Tokyo Ikebukuro station, take the Seibu Ikebukuro line from platform 7 towards Hannō (飯能). Get off at Hannō station and walk in north-western direction for 1.6 kilometer or 20 minutes.
The Saitama Hannō Hospital is close to the temple.

Admission
300 Yen

Address
1329 Hannō, Hannō City, Saitama 357-0063
〒357-0063 埼玉県飯能市飯能 1329

Telephone
042-973-4128

Nijō Castle - Ninomaru(二条城 二の丸庭園)

The Ninomaru gardens of the Nijō castle in Kyoto have been designed by garden master Kobori Enshu. The palace was built for the first Edo shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in the early Edo period (1603-1868). There are numerous cherry and plum trees, which bloom between March and April.

The garden has a large pond with three islands that symbolize Horai-San, and the crane and turtle mountains of the Taoist mythology.

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Directions

How to get there
From Kyoto station, take city bus number 9 to Nijo-jo mae (二条城前) – it should take around 16 minutes.

Address
JP: 〒604-8301 京都市中京区二条通堀川西入二条城町541番地
EN: 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 604-8301

Opening times
8:45am to 5pm (last entry at 4pm)

Closed between Dec. 26th and January 4st, and every Tuesday in January, July, August and December.

Admission
600 yen

Nanzen-ji(南禅寺)

Nanzen-ji is the name of a temple and the surrounding temple complex at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountains (Higashi-yama). It was built in the Heian period (794-1185) on the grounds of Tennō Kameyama’s detached palace. The emperor was in favor of Zen Buddhism and supported the relatively new religion, introducing it to the aristocratic circles. It is the head temple of the Nanzen-ji branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism.

Of special importance is the dry landscape garden (kare-sansui) in front of the Hōjō, the head priest’s quarters. The fusuma-e, the paintings on wooden sliding doors, are also impressive. They have been painted by painters of the famous Kanō school.

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Directions

The most beautiful way to get to Nanzen-ji is to walk the picturesque Philosopher’s path, which connects Nanzen-ji and Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion.

As for the subway, Keage Station on the Tozai line is a short 7-10 minute walk away. If you prefer to go by bus, take bus number 5 and get off at Nanzenji-Eikando-michi.

How to get there
Take city bus number 5 and get off the bus at the Nanzen-ji bus stop. Walk about 10 minutes in eastern direction.

Address
Nanzenji-Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-city
京都市左京区南禅寺福地町

Telephone
075-771-0365

Opening hours
December-February: 8:40am – 4:30pm
March-November: 8:40am – 5pm

The temple is closed from December 28th to 31st.

Admission
500 Yen

Murin-an(無鄰菴)

Murin-an is a typical strolling garden of the Meiji period (1868-1912). It was built between 1894 and 1896 by Yamagata Aritomo, a Prime Minister of Meiji period Japan. As much as he loved the Japanese garden culture, he also had a deep interest in Western culture. The villa on the grounds of Murin-an has dark rooms, painted walls and a paneled ceiling and is a rare example of western style architecture.

The garden was realized by the Japanese master gardener Ogawa Jihee. The garden uses the eastern hills of Kyoto as a viewpoint, which let it appear as an extension of the mountain scenery. This technique is called shuzan – 主山. It has a small stream that is fed by the waters of Lake Biwa, Japan’s biggest lake. Large parts of the garden are lawn, probably an influence of English landscape gardens. The Japanese style villa has a tea room – why not sit down on the veranda and have a bowl of fresh Matcha green tea while admiring the garden?

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Directions

How to get there
Murin-an is in the neighborhood of Nanzen-ji and Heian-jingu shrine in eastern Kyoto. It is situated south of the Kyoto Zoo. Take the city bus number 5, 57, 32 or 100 to Doubutsu-en-mae (動物園前 – Kyoto Zoo). When you get off the bus, walk south and cross the bridge, then go to your left, in eastern direction, following the Niōmon-dori (仁王門通り). Before Niōmon makes a right turn, there is a really small street to your right. Turn into that street and you will find a Murin-an’s small entrance gate to your left.

Opening hours
Apr. – Sep. 9:00 ~ 6:00
Oct. – Mar. 9:00 ~ 5:00

Holidays:
December 29th – December 31st.

Admission
600 Yen

Address
JP: 31 南禅寺草川町、左京区 京都市 京都府 606-8437
EN: 31 Kusakawa-cho, Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8437

Mibu-dera(壬生寺)

Mibu-dera was established in 991 by the monk Kaiken and is one of Kyoto’s oldest temples. Since Kyoto has see a lot of wars, fires and other catastrophes over the centuries, none of the original building has survived until today. There is a stone garden south of the Shoin, the study rooms of the temple. It was also damaged in a big fire on the site and had to be rebuilt in 1811.

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Directions

How to get there
Take city bus no. 28 from Kyoto station towards Daikaku-ji (大覚寺). Get off after 8 stops (around 15 minutes) at Mibu-dera-dori. From there head south and you will see the temple after 400 meters.

Opening times Museum
8:30am – 16:30pm
The garden is only open during special occassions.

Admission
200 Yen

Address
JP: 京都市中京区壬生椰ノ宮町31
EN:Kyoto-shi, Nakakyo-ku, Mibunaginomiya-cho 31