Shinju-an (Daitoku-ji)  (真珠庵)

Shinju-an was founded in 1491, in honor of the Zen priest Ikkyu, who was the head priest of Daitoku-ji from 1474- 1481. Ikkyu played the main role in reviving the Daitoku-ji temple complex after its destruction in the Onin war. The dry landscape garden and tea house were built in 1638 and are attributed to Kanamori Sowa, who was a tea master from the Japanese Alps.

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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.

EN: 〒603-8231, Kyoto-Shi, Kita-Ku, Murasakino, 52 Daitoku-ji-Chō
JP: 〒603-8231, 京都市 北区 紫野 大徳寺町52

Open in the first week of November

Tenryū-ji  (天龍寺)

The temple was founded by shogun Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, primarily to venerate Gautama Buddha, and its first head priest was Musō Soseki. Construction was completed in 1345. As a temple related to both the Ashikaga family and Emperor Go-Daigo, the temple is held in high esteem, and is ranked number one among Kyoto’s so-called Five Mountains. In 1994, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”.

There are two different tickets – one for the garden and another for the temple buildings itself. We saw the garden only, but would recommend to buy the temple ticket, as you get to see the garden from the temple and the inside of great fusuma-e, the sliding screen paintings on the inside of the temple.

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eBook Coming…


68 Saga-tenryuji-susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
500 Yen
Opening hours
April – October: 8:30am – 5:30pm
November-March: 8:30am – 5pm

Saihō-ji (Koke-dera)  (西芳寺 (苔寺))

The garden of Saihō-ji is acclaimed by many as Kyoto’s most beautiful garden and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. It is especially famous for its moss garden, for which reason it is also commonly known as Moss temple or Koke-dera (苔寺).

In 1339, the famous Zen monk Musō Soseki became the head priest of the temple and remodeled the garden. For him, creating gardens was part of his zen meditation routine. He founded a lot of temples and built or remodeled their gardens, but Saihō-ji is clearly his masterpiece.

Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408, 足利義満) sat here in meditation in the upper part of the garden commemorating the garden’s creator Musō Soseki. Yoshimitsu’s grandson shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-1490, 足利善政) loved this garden so much that he modeled his own retreat, the Temple of the Silver Pavillion – Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺), after Saihō-ji. Famous monks of different Buddhist sects have been head priests of the temple – namely Kūkai (774-835), Hōnen (1133-1212) and Musō Soseki (1275-1351). During the Edo period the temple fell into disrepair. It must have been at this time that moss slowly encroached the garden until it covered all of it. Today, there are roughly 120 types of moss in the garden.

The best times to view the garden are during the rainy season (mid-June until mid-July) and in autumn, when the red and orange of the maple’s leafs contrast nicely with the lush green of the velvety moss.

History of the temple
Buildings of the temple
Musō Soseki’s Garden Philosophy
The Moss
The Lower Garden
The Upper Garden
Jenny’s impressions
Registration process
How to get there

18 pages
84 illustrations
19.3 MB

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How to get there
Saihō-ji is situated in the picturesque Arashiyama mountains to the west of Kyoto. Although you need to change trains, it is not very complicated to get there. First get to Katsura station by taking the Hankyu Kyoto line. In Katsura, change to the cute trains of the Hankyu Arashiyama line to get to Matsu-o station. From there, you can take a bus to get to Koke-dera (it says so big in big letters on the front of the bus). After that, it is only a short walk to the temple.

You can also go directly from Kyoto station with bus 28 until Matsuo-Taisha-mae and walk around 15 min in southern direction. From the Sanjō station of the Keihan line, you can take bus 63
to the final stop ‘Koke-dera’.

Saihō-ji Temple
56 Jingatani-cho
Matsuo Nishikyo-ku
Kyoto, 615-8286, Japan



Visiting the temple and its garden is only possible with previous registration by a return postcard (往復ハガキ).
You will be told on the return post card a time and date when visiting is possible. The entrance fee is 3.000 Yen.

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 probable 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.

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 / 26MB

eBook will be delivered as pdf and mobi

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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: 8am to 5pm
December – February: 8:30am to 4:30pm

500 yen