It’s probably very challenging to be a temple in Kyoto – you have to share a single city with 1,599 other temples, and some of them have golden walls or silver to their name or even a rock garden that was greatly praised by English royalty.
I know. For a very well-known rock garden and UNESCO World Heritage Site it looks underwhelming, and I swear that was the best picture I could take of it. But then I took a seat on the veranda and the view changed. I had to stop seeing it from behind the lens and the corner of the veranda to appreciate the simplicity of the garden and to make something of the rocks, the pebbles, and the splatter of green moss.
That is, after all, what all the references say: the garden is open to interpretation. Do the large rocks symbolize mountains and the pebbles the sea? Or are they mountain peaks on a sea of clouds? Or perhaps phantoms stepping out from the fog? (What? It was a cloudy day.)
Whatever you make of it, whatever you see, you’ll probably feel the same way I did: peaceful and calm. Everything else fades into the background. Honestly, you’d have to be there to appreciate it because the beauty of the rock garden is not what you see but how it makes you feel, which is probably why Queen Elizabeth II personally visited the garden in 1975.
It’s the rock garden that makes Ryoanji Temple special, but it isn’t the only thing to appreciate there. If you go in summer like I did, you’ll also see the temple’s park in vivid green colors. You might even see some birds cooling themselves in the temple’s picturesque pond. I heard there’s even a restaurant with a beautiful view of a Japanese garden and delicious Yudofu (boiled tofu).
Despite all the beauty to see there, Ryoanji Temple is not as popular among local and foreign tourists as the Golden Temple and Kiyomizudera, but I know of some Japanese who think this temple is the best in Kyoto. And for a city that had 1,600 temples, that says a lot.
March to November: 08:00 AM – 05:00 PM
December to February: 8:30 AM – 04:30 PM
Adult: 500 YEN
Children under 15: 300 YEN
OPTION 1: Take a train on the Kyoto Municipal Subway’s Karasuma Line to Kita-Oji Station, and take bus #12 to Ryoanji Temple.
OPTION 2: Take a train on the Keihan Main Line to Keihan Sanjo Station, and take bus #12 or #59 to Ryoanji Temple.