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…


How to get there
Bus: Take the Kyoto bus 61, 72, or 83, and get off at the stop ‘Arashiyama Tenryuji Mae’. Take the Shi bus 11, 28, or 93, and get off at the stop ‘Arashiyama Tenryuji Mae’.

Subway: Take the Arashiyama line to Arashiyama station and walk about 5 minutes in western direction.

500 Yen (garden only)
800 Yen (garden and building)

Opening hours 8:30am – 5pm
Last admission: 4:50pm

EN: 68 Saga-tenryuji-susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
JP: 〒616-8385 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町68


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

eBook will be delivered as PDF.

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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: 8:00am to 5:00pm
December – February: 8:30am to 4:30pm

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

The eBook is delivered as PDF.

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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.

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

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


Every year in June, after the rain season has begun, and the air gets hot and damp, thousands of visitors from Tokyo and Kamakura surge to the Meigetsu-in temple in Kita-Kamakura. This is the time, when the temple’s ajisai (紫陽花), the hydrangeas, are in full bloom and look their best.

Meigetsu-in is now a temple of the Rinzai Zen school of Buddhism. It was founded in 1383 (Muromachi period) by Uesugi Norikata, a powerful statesman of the Uesugi clan.

Apart from the hydrangea, which gave the temple its nickname Ajisai-dera (紫陽花寺), it is famous for an excellent dry landscape garden and the round windows of the main temple buildings. Like all Kamakura gardens, it is also beautiful in autumn when the leaves change color.

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How to get there:
Meigetsu-in is a 10 minute walk from Kita-Kamakura station on the JR Yokosuka Line, one station before Kamakura station when coming from Tokyo.

300 Yen, in June 500 Yen

Opening hours
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
in June 8:30 am to 5:00 pm