Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺)

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Founded in 1450 by Katsumoto Hosokawa, Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto captivates with its iconic karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden, created around 1499. Comprising 15 precisely arranged rocks in white gravel, the garden embodies Zen Buddhism principles—simplicity, harmony, and abstraction. A single rock remains hidden, sparking contemplation. The tranquil setting, free from trees and plants, fosters introspection. Visitors meditate on the veranda of the Hojo, the main hall, enveloped by the garden’s serene beauty. This temple also features a stunning pond garden with changing seasonal charm and a notable Tsukubai stone basin for purification.

Katsumoto Hosokawa, general of the Eastern Army in the Onin War, founded this Temple in 1450. Temple’s official WEB site


The highlight of this Temple is its karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden. The rock garden was built around 1499. The garden consists of 15 carefully arranged rocks of various sizes, surrounded by white gravel. You can see only 14 rocks from any vantage point. So, one always remains hidden from your sight.

The rock garden is of a minimalist style, with no trees or plants, creating a tranquil and contemplative atmosphere. It is an excellent example of the principles of simplicity, harmony, and abstraction that are central to Zen Buddhism and Japanese aesthetics.

Visitors can sit on the veranda of the Hojo, the temple’s main hall, and contemplate the rock garden from a distance. The arrangement of the rocks and the empty spaces in between encourage meditation and introspection, thus allowing visitors to find their own meaning and interpretation.

Other Features: Aside from the rock garden, the temple encompasses other beautiful gardens and structures. The garden is a pond garden with a circular garden-style design. The Kyoyochi Pond is covered with cherry blossoms in spring, water lilies in summer, autumn leaves in fall, and snow in winter, offering a variety of natural beauty. The pond is different from the stone garden in that it has a different charm.

The Tsukubai, a stone basin with a bamboo pipe for purifying hands, is also a notable feature.

Ryoanji Garden
Ryoanji Garden

Model courses for visiting Ryoanji

Kinkakuji Temple and Ninnaji Temple are nearby. Starting from Kinkakuji Temple, you can make a perfect half-day walking tour.

Nearby spots

Toji-in Temple is the family temple of the Ashikaga Shoguns. With few tourists, visitors can enjoy the garden and other facilities in peace and quiet.

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