Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

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Domo arigato.
  • Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

    Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

  • Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

    Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

  • Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

    Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

  • Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

    Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

  • Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

    Rock Garden within Ryoan-ji Zen Temple

  • Kuri Building within Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Kuri Building, Ryoan-ji in Kyoto

  • Inside Kuri Building Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Inside Kuri Building, Ryoan-ji in Kyoto

  • Shop within Kuri Building Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Shop within Kuri Building, Ryoan-ji Temple

  • Map of Ryoan-ji Temple complex in Kyoto

    Map of Ryoan-ji Temple complex in Kyoto

  • Kyoyochi Pond (Oshidori ike) of Ryoan-ji in Kyoto

    Kyoyochi Pond (Oshidori ike) of Ryoan-ji

  • Kyoyochi Pond (Oshidori ike) of Ryoan-ji in Kyoto

    Kyoyochi Pond (Oshidori ike) of Ryoan-ji

  • Kyoyochi Pond (Oshidori ike) of Ryoan-ji in Kyoto

    Kyoyochi (Oshidori ike) of Pond Ryoan-ji

  • Boat at Kyoyochi (Oshidori ike) Pond, Ryoan-ji in Kyoto

    Boat at Kyoyochi (Oshidori ike) Pond, Ryoan-ji

  • Hojo Building with Fusuma, Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Hojo Building with Fusuma, Ryoan-ji

  • Hojo Building with Fusuma, Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Hojo Building with Fusuma, Ryoan-ji

  • Chisoku No Tsukubai at Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Chisoku No Tsukubai at Ryoan-ji

  • Ossuary at Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Ossuary at Ryoan-ji in Kyoto

  • Pagoda at Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Pagoda at Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

  • Chokushimon Gate Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Chokushimon Gate Ryoan-ji in Kyoto

  • Stairs of Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Ryoan-ji Temple Stairs

  • Cherry Blossom Ryoan-ji Garden in Kyoto

    Cherry Blossom Ryoan-ji Garden in Kyoto

  • Cherry Blossom Ryoan-ji Garden in Kyoto

    Cherry Blossom Ryoan-ji Garden in Kyoto

  • Cherry Blossom Ryoan-ji Garden in Kyoto

    Cherry Blossom Ryoan-ji Garden in Kyoto

  • Moss Garden of Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

    Moss Garden of Ryoan-ji in Kyoto

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Facts & Figures

Ryoan-ji (Temple of the Peaceful Dragon) in Kyoto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and belongs to the most famous Zen Temples in Japan. The reason for this iconic status is its rock garden with 15 stones called Sekitei surrounded by white gravel. Thousands of visitors from all around the world come here every month to appreciate the unique beauty of this dry landscape garden (kare-sansui). The garden size itself is only 25m x 10m. The real meaning of the garden is not completely clear, but this gives room for everyone's own thoughts and theories. Btw it is not possible to see all 15 rocks at once from any point of the terrace. Ryoan-ji is part of the Myoshin-ji school of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. My tip: To enjoy one of the biggest attractions in Kyoto to the fullest you should come here during the cherry blossom season in the end of March.

Best Ryokans in Kyoto Explore Ryokans in Kyoto
Ryokans are the perfect way to discover old Japanese culture and traditions.
  • Ryoan-ji:
  • Opening Hours - 8:00 am to 5:00 pm – March to November
  • Opening Hours - 8:30 am to 4:30 pm – December to February
  • Admission Fee - 500 yen (Adults), 300 yen (Students)

My tips for local activities

Explore the best parts of my favourite city Kyoto with a local guide. The tour takes approximately 3,5hrs. Check out this page for more details.

History

The Ryoan-ji Temple was originally a villa of the powerful Fujiwara clan during the Heian Period (794 - 1185). In 1450 Hosokawa Katsumoto (1430 - 1473), a feudal warlord within the Ashikaga Shogunate, changed the villa into a Zen temple. During the Onin War (1467 - 1477) the temple was burned down, but in 1488 completely reconstructed by Hosokawa Masamoto (1466 – 1507). The exact date of the creation of the famous rock garden is still not clear to this day. Some researches say it was in 1488 during the Muromachi period (1336 - 1573) by garden designer and monk Soami (1472 - 1525). The temple burned down in 1797 and was rebuilt short after. Since then nothing has changed anymore on the temple layout and architecture. In 1994 the Ryoan-ji Zen Temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and being part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

Location

Map of Japan

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Ryoan-ji is located in the northwest part of Kyoto near Ninnaji.
Address: 13 Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8001

How to get to Ryoan-ji?

  • 30min from Kyoto Station to Ritsumeikan Daigaku-mae stop by Kyoto City Bus 50
  • 7min walk from Ritsumeikan Daigaku-mae stop to Ryoan-ji

Sightseeing spots at Ryoan-ji Temple grounds

Top:

Ryoan-ji Zen rock garden - This dry landscape garden with its 15 rocks is the most famous in Japan.

Kyoyochi Pond (Mirror Pond) - It is one of the best cherry blossom spots in Kyoto. The history of the pond is dating back to the 12th century.

Hojo - The former residence of the head priest (abbot) is known for the beautiful paintings (fusuma) at the sliding doors and the great meditation hall.

Teahouse and Tea garden - Built during the 17th century and a great example of the Japanese architecture style during the Edo period (1603 - 1868).

Chisoku No Tsukubai - This famous stone water basin was used for the purification ceremony. It has the appearance of an old Chinese coin.

Yudofu (boiled tofu) - Try out this local cuisine in a restaurant located within the spacious strolling garden of the temple complex.

Seven Imperial Tombs - Seven imperial family members are buried here, which are Emperor Enyu (959 - 991), Ichijo (980 – 1011), Go-Suzaku (1009 - 1045), Go-Reizei (1025 - 1068), Go-Sanjo (1032 - 1073), Horikawa (1079 - 1107) and Imperial Princess Teishi (1013 - 1094).

Bonsho - Look out for this traditional Buddhist temple bell, which is used quite often during festivals and big events like the New Year celebrations.

Festival & Events (dates can change without notice)

April

Hanamatsuri (8th)
The "flower festival" is a celebration of Buddha's birthday.

May

Aoi Matsuri (15th)
The highlight of this festival is a large parade from Imperial Palace through Shimogamo Shrine to the Kamo Shrines. More than 500 people wearing aristocratic costumes from the Heian Period (794 - 1185). The Aoi Matsuri belongs with the Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri to the three most famous festivals in Kyoto.

Arashiyama Mifune Matsuri (third Sunday of May)
The first part is held at the Kuramazaki Shrine. Later a procession is leading to the Oi River, where more ceremonies and traditional dances (Funa Asobi) are held. The Arashiyama Mifune Matsuri started in 1914.

July

Gion Matsuri (whole month)
The month July is full of different events like the Yoiyama - Kyoto's Magical Night (locals in kimonos look at the giant Gion floats the day before the parade) or the famous Yamaboko Junko (float procession on the 17th of July).

October

Jidai Matsuri ("Festival of Ages") (22nd)
People celebrate with a large parade between Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine the anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto. App. 2000 participants wearing historical costumes from different time periods. Enjoy this great festival which last around 2 hours.

My 100 Best Moments in Japan

Train ride from Osaka to Kyoto

I am visiting Japan nearly every year since 2004. This is my collection of the 100 best moments in my favourite country. Enjoy the pictures and I hope you will start your own journey soon.
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