Ryoan-Ji Temple

Sights Type / Religious
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Ryoan-Ji Temple
Location

Kyoto, Japan

Address

13, Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 616-8001, Japan
Japanese address: 右京区龍安寺御陵ノ下町13

Getting there

Ryoan-ji Access - how to get to Ryoanji Temple
Take buses #12 and #59 from Keihan Sanjo Station or Ryoan-ji Station on the Keifuku Kitano Line from Kitano Hakubaicho station. Alternatively take the Kyoto subway north to Kitaoji Station and then bus #12.

Telephone

+81 75-463-2216

More information

http://www.ryoanji.jp/, https://facebook.com/pages/Ryoanji-Temple, https://foursquare.com/v/ryoanji-temple

Prices

Admission: Adults: 500 yen Junior high and elementary school students: 300 yen

Opening hours

Mar - Nov 8:00a.m.-5:00p.m.
Dec - Feb 8:30.am-4:30p.m.

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Japan’s most famous “Zen” garden consists of 15 carefully placed rocks that float mesmerizingly on sea of gravel – an example of carefully calculated randomness.

Even after centuries in existence no one has cracked the riddle of these seemingly random rock clusters that seem to float on the sea of gravel at the famous karesansui (dry gravel garden) Ryoan-ji Te. Like nearby Kinkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji is best visited as soon as it opens or just before it closes.

History of Ryoanji

The site of the temple was originally a Fujiwara family estate during the Heian period. The temple was founded in 1450 by Hosokawa Katsumoto (1430-73), a military leader in the Muromachi period.

The original temple buildings burned down during the Onin Wars (1467-77), in which Katsumoto was killed. The temple was reconstructed from 1488 to 1499, and Ryoanji's famous rock garden was probably constructed around this time. Further reconstructions and additions were made over the centuries.

The temple belongs to the Myōshinji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism. Rinzai Zen was introduced to Japan by the Chinese priest Ensai in 1191 and emphasizes the use of koans, paradoxical puzzles or questions that help the practitioner to overcome the normal boundaries of logic.

What to See at Ryoanji

Ryoanji is most famous for its karesansui (dry landscape) Zen rock garden, thought to date from the late 1400s. It is one of the most notable examples of the dry-garden style — some say it is the highest expression of Zen art and teachings and perhaps the single greatest masterpiece of Japanese culture. No one knows who laid out this simple garden, or precisely when, but it is today as it was yesterday, and tomorrow it will be as it is today.

The Zen garden is an austere arrangement of 15 rocks rests on a bed of white gravel, surrounded by low walls. The moss-covered boulders are placed so that, when looking at the garden from any angle, only 14 are visible at one time. In the Buddhist world the number 15 denotes completeness. So you must have a total view of the garden to make it a whole and meaningful experience, and yet, in the conditions of this world, that is not possible.

Unlike Stonehenge, the Pyramids, or Angkor Wat, Ryoanji can hardly impress you with technical achievement, religious imperative or sheer scale. Yet its quiet minimalism inspires contemplation and introspection.

Behind the simple temple that overlooks the rock garden is a stone washbasin called Tsukubai, which is said to have been contributed by Tokugawa Mitsukuni in the 17th century. It bears a simple but profound four-character inscription: "I learn only to be contented." This is the heart of Zen philosophy.

The main temple building is a meditation hall (hojo) furnished with tatami mats, sliding doors, and a small Buddhist altar. It opens onto the veranda that overlooks the rock garden.

The temple grounds cover 120 acres, including the scenic mountain backdrop, and are well worth a stroll, particularly the cool green moss gardens and large pond. Due to its large population of waterbirds, it is popularly known as Oshidori-ike, the pond of mandarin ducks. The pond has two small islands, the larger of which is has a small bridge leading across to a shrine to Benten, the Shinto goddess of good luck.

On the rim of the pond is a beautiful little restaurant, Ryoanji Yudofuya, with tatami rooms and screens. Here you where you can eat yudofu or have an expensive beer and enjoy the view.

Ryoan-ji Access - how to get to Ryoanji Temple

Take buses #12 and #59 from Keihan Sanjo Station or Ryoan-ji Station on the Keifuku Kitano Line from Kitano Hakubaicho station. Alternatively take the Kyoto subway north to Kitaoji Station and then bus #12.

Reviews by visitors

A dry zen landscape garden of the end of the 16th century. This relates to the Rinzai sect and has 5 groups of 3 stones.gravel irepresents the void or emptiness and is also the sea where enlightenment may be. There appears to be no agreement as to the meaning but the stones could be islands, mountains piercing clouds and maybe even tiger cubs crossing wate.

Perhaps you just need to contemplate yourself.

As usual in temples or shrines shoes off.

~randle_wiliams

We had biked up to the Golden Palace and had stopped by here on a whim. Ended up being him our favorite Kyoto garden/ site. We went during prime cherry blossom season and the blossoms here were stunning. But beyond the blackberry blossoms, everything about this place was sincere and peaceful. The rock garden was impressive. This was a great place to leave the crowds and experience peace and serenity. ~Tracy B

I wasn't too excited when my husband told me he wanted to visit a rock garden. He knew something I didn't though, because this place is beautiful! There were other people, but no large crowds. There were some wide steps on the edge of the garden where you could sit and relax, and then you could also walk around some of the buildings and enjoy the other areas. It was inexpensive and fairly easy to get to.

I'd highly recommend this for anyone visiting Kyoto. It was the first attraction I saw in the city, and it set the tone for my entire trip.

~JupiterCherry

Ryoanji is supposed to be the epitome of zen rock gardens. There are sitting platforms where you're supposed to sit and contemplate the gardens, though quiet contemplation is probably not possible due to the crowds visiting the place. ~jchong

I liked this temple because there's not a lot of tourists flocking the area unlike in the Golden Pavilion. The atmosphere is very relaxing and I would love to see this again during autumn. ~Evitha_Sue

The Ryoanji temple, and in particular, the gardens were one of my favourite places in Kyoto.

The temple is very nice but I agree with others that it can be rather overcrowded and it is harder to see the magic of the zen rock garden when you are surrounded by people chattering and children shouting- but perhaps THAT is part of the magic/ lesson/ story it is telling... 

The highlight for me was really the beautiful zen grounds. Every leaf and branch seems to have been thought through with great attention to detail. The lake had a glorious smattering of pink waterlilies which could simply not be captured adequately in photos. It was a lovely walk that seems to be overlooked by the crowds busily rushing to/ from the temple itself.

Highly recommended.

~frenchfancy9

Sitting in the rock garden you can really drift away... Unless there's hordes of JHS students on a field trip! But hey you can't win them all. Still an amazing site and a really awe inspiring world heritage listed site. The gardens are lovely as well, definitely worth a visit after you've braced the masses at kinkaku-ji down the road. ~Paul M

This temple was on top of our list of reasons for visiting Japan and it didn't disappoint. It gets to you. Photos don't do it justice. Just see it. ~SouthPerthAustralia

I like this rock garden very much and came here for numerous times with different people so far. In this time of visit, like everything, I found a space to squeeze myself and sat on the wooden balcony to look through the garden for a while. You can reflect yourself, your family, people surround you on the rocks and think many different things as much as you can. It is a very peaceful and very special moment talk to yourself. Highly recommended. The reason for one star reduction is due to high number of noisy visitors.. ~ShonWata

This stone garden is most famous and remarkable of all of them. A lot of ponds, greens and stones on a paths around it but its stones remember so many people that tried to find themselves. You can not see all the stones simultaneously otherwise you are reached highest spiritual developmental rank but all try to. You are sitting in front of stony pond and counting, counting... ~YuryGr

Go and visit and admire the garden and then on a quiet(er) moment during the visit go to the rock garden. This is a place where you can forget that you are in Kyoto a busy city. 

Very special and well worth the visit.

~EMBE762

this temple is famous for its outstanding zen garden. a westerner may wonder what it is all about, but you have to be prepared to take the traditional point of view and make the effort to understand. ~ehud f

This place is famous for its zen garden with rocks and stones around them, and their symbolic meaning. Plenty of people looking at it and trying to figure it out (good luck with that). Anyway, it's good to came and take a look too. ~MrNobody

The main attraction, the zen garden, is small and looks quite simple, but beautiful given the blossoms you can see above it. It's a spot for zen meditation but the crowd makes it a challenge. If you wait a few minutes you should be able to get a seat for a while. The other gardens in the ground are beautiful, a mix of green trees and pink cherry blossoms in April. ~pancreas

As I am in my late forties we were bombarded with the Zen trend decades ago...Visiting this temple made sense of all.that.

Lots of tourists staring at the rock garden for hours...

Not to be missed!!!

~Xose Manuel F

I visited this with a guide who gave me a bit of explanation about the concept and practicalities of dry landscape gardens. For example, she told me that the idea is that every visitor uses their own imagination to interpret the rocks and the lines and that the sand/gravel is raked every 10 days. I could not extract from her whether it always gets raked in the same way. They are for looking at and to start with a lot of people were looking at it with us. They were reasonably quiet though, so it was ok as I am not a great meditator anyway. There is kind of tiered seating at the side, so everyone gets a view. Towards the late afternoon the numbers thinned out, so this might be the time to go. ~Waliserin

Ryoanji Temple is a little bit underwhelming for 500 yen, as it's a place where you can sit and meditate, but crowded with tourists doing the same thing in the same area (or just looking and being noisy), and it's quite small, basically just a single square's worth of temple. Drop by if you're in the area and want to see a zen/rock garden, but don't expect to get much silence here, or a huge return on your buck. It's quaint, though. ~Katie J

This temple is a must do when you are in kyoto especially during the sakura bloom season when the cherry trees in the temple in bloom are a sight to behold. The temple itself is not to be missed and the calming atmosphere of the temple is an added bonus. ~Idris A

You can see more Kyoto travel guide at here.