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

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

The eBook is delivered as PDF.

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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

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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eBook coming…

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

Kyōto Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace)(京都御所)

The Imperial Palace in Kyoto has been the seat of the Emperor from the Heian period (794-1185) until the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). After the Edo period, the Tenno and his court moved to the Old Edo, which then became the official capital of Japan and changed its name to Tokyo – Capital of the East.

The palace and garden are within the old palace enclosure but were built much later, during the Edo period (1855). The style is loosely based on the Heian shinden-zukuri style, with large gravel courtyards and a small pond garden.

Access to the garden is only granted free of charge. Tours are held in Japanese, Chinese, and English. English tours are available at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. You can apply for them by visiting the Visitors Room on the right side of the entrance.

[Updated: 10/2018]

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Directions

How to get there From Kyoto station, take the Karasuma line to Marutamachi station (丸太町, 4 stops, 7 minutes). From there, enter the Kyoto-gyoen and go to the entrance of the Sentō-Gosho in the center of the park.

If you prefer to go by bus, take the city bus 205 and get off at the bus stop Furitsu-idaibyouin-mae (府立医大病院). The bus stop is to the east of the Kyoto-gyoen, enter the park and walk in a westwards direction.

Address
JP: 〒602-0881 京都府京都市,上京区京都御苑
EN: Kyoto Gyoen, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-shi 〒602-0881

Opening hours
September & March 9 a.m. – 3:50 p.m. (Last admission) 4:30 p.m. (Closing time)
October – February 9 a.m. – 3:20 p.m. (Last admission) 4 p.m. (Closing time)
April – August 9 a.m. – 4:20 p.m. (Last admission) 5 p.m. (Closing time)
Closed: Mondays (if Monday is a holiday, the palace will close on Tuesday instead.)
December 28 – January 4

Admission
Entrance is free.

Kōzan-ji (Ikō-an)(高山寺, 遺香庵)

Kōzan-ji is one of the oldest temples in the larger Kyoto area. It belongs to the Shingon sect of Buddhism and is said to have been founded first in 744 by the imperial orders of Emperor Kōnin. There is however no evidence for this fact. In 1206, it was revived by priest Myoe as a training monastery. The Sekisui-in is the only building of the temple that dates back to the Kamakura period, the others have burnt down and been replaced over the centuries. Since 1994, Kozan-ji is part of the World Cultural Heritage.

The temple is situated in Takao-san’s foothill forests. Autumn is an especially good time to visit the temple, which is famous for its autumn colors.

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Directions

How to get there Take a JR bus from Kyoto station for Toganoo or Shuzan.
It takes about an hour to get there. Intermediate stops include Shijo-Omiya, Ryoan-ji-mae, Takao and Makinoo.

Opening times
9am – 5pm

Admission
600 Yen

Address
JP: 京都府京都市右京区梅ケ畑栂尾町8
EN: Kyoto City, Ukyo-ku, Umegahata, Togano-o-cho 8

Telephone
075-861-4204

Kōrin-in (Daitoku-ji)(興臨院)

Kōrin-in is a sub-temple of Daitoku-ji. It was founded in 1520 as a family temple for the Hatekeyama family. The temple building (Hōjō, 方丈, abbot’s quarter) built in the Shoin architectural style of the Muromachi period. Apart for the Zen garden, the temple is famous for its tea room Kankyo-tei.

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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 Ōbai-in is available.)

Address
EN: 〒603-8231, Kyoto-Shi, Kita-Ku, Murasakino, 80 Daitoku-ji-Chō
JP: 〒603-8231, 京都市 北区 紫野 大徳寺町80

Opening hours
Open only in autumn, between 10:00 am – 5:00pm

Website with opening time frames
https://kyotoshunju.com/temple/daitokuji-kohrinin/

Konnichi-an(今日庵)

Sen no Rikyu is the most famous Japanese tea master and founder of the Japanese way of tea. After his grandson died, his heirs founded three different schools of the Japanese way of tea. One of these schools is Urasenke, meaning “Rear-Sen-house”.

Sen Sōtan, Sen no Rikyu’s grandson, built the original tea house on the north side of the Sen residence. It’s name Konnichi-an means “Hut of This Day” (今日庵). The Urasenke school of Japanese tea is also referred to by the name of its representative tea room Konnichi-an.

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Directions

How to get there
Take the city bus number 9 to Horikawaji-no-uchi(18 stops, 27 minutes). From there, walk in eastern direction and turn left into the Ogawa-dori (小川通).

Address JP: 〒602-0061 京都府京都市上京区本法寺前町613-1 裏千家今日庵
Address EN: 〒602-0061 Kyoto, Kamigyo Ward, Honpojimaecho, 613-1 裏千家今日庵

Admission
Not open to the public