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RYŌAN-JI; The most famous rock garden

The Zen temple Ryōan-ji  (The Temple of the Dragon at Peace) is a Buddhist Zen temple that has been synonymous with the temple's famous  kare-sansui, a rock garden. The temple and gardens are listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More below...



This is a rectangular 248 square meters stone garden where the viewer has to make his own interpretation. Some believe that it is mountain peaks sticking up above the clouds. Others that the 15 rocks  are islands in a river or others that it is a tiger with her cubs in a pond. In the Buddhist world the number 15 represents completeness. It should be noted that regardless of from which angle you look at the garden, at least one rock is out of sight.

Although it is not entirely sure who built the Rock garden in 1450 it was probably  Hosokawa Katsumoto (1430-1473), a warlord and deputy to the Shogun. Katsumoto built his residence and founded a zen temple, Ryōan-ji, on the grounds of an old temple.  400 years earlier existed here a temple built by the powerful Fujiwara family.

Although it is the Rock Garden that is best known consists Ryoan-ji also of an aqueous garden, a tea garden and a tea house.

Ryoan-ji can be reached directly from Kyoto Station by JR bus in  about 35 minutes and is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Ryoanji is also a five minute bus ride or 20 minute walk west of Kinkakuji.

The temple can also be reached by the JR Keifuku Kitano Line and  get off at Ryoanji-michi Station from where it is a 5-10 minute walk to Ryoan-ji.

Tokyo 2020

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