Ryoanji (龍安寺) is famous for its rock/sand garden behind the temple buildings. Similar to other temples of Kyoto (京都) like Kinkakuji (金閣寺) or Ginkakuji (銀閣寺), Ryoanji’s original purpose was that of a residence, as an aristrocrat of the Heian Period (710-1185) once lived here before it was turned into a Zen Temple in 1450.
While the history of Ryoanji’s buildings are mostly known, the facts behind the rock garden behind them consist of mere speculation. It is not known who designed them and what purpose they served, unfortunately.
This makes the place all-the-more interesting though. You as a visitor can think about it on your own. Why were these 15 rocks placed in their present alignment? Symbolism plays a big role here, you’ll have to see for yourself and interpret it your way!
Ryoanji's Temple Grounds
You can view the garden from Ryoanji’s Head Priest’s former residence called Hojo. The building also displays a collection of paintings and other traditional Japanese items. Other smaller gardens are around that building as well.
Kuri, the former kitchen of the residence, now servers as Ryoanji’s main entrance.
Very near to the temple buildings lies a small park with a pond and nice walking trails where I recommend taking a short stroll through and also checking out the restaurant there! It specializes in the local cuisine of Kyoto.
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Opening Hours & Admission Fee
- Ryoanji is opened daily from 8:00 – 17:00 (March through November and 8:30 – 16:30 (December through February)
- There are no closing days throughout the year
- Entrance fee is 500 Yen (3,85€/$4.55; exchange rate as of September 2018)
How to get to Ryoanji
The temple is located very near Kinkakuji, so you could easily combine the two. Only 20 minutes of walking will get you from one to the other.
Ryoanji, while not the most popular temple in Kyoto, still offers a very unique experience with its rock garden that cannot be found anywhere else. Even though the likes of Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji and Kiyomizudera (清水寺) are more popular, Ryoanji still gets hundreds of visitors per day.
Definitely come as early as possible which is pretty much the advice for every temple, but even more so for the famous ones.
The garden combined with the quiet park and pond make for a nice break from the more hectic downtown business.
It can also be fun to try and speculate what this mysterious rock arrangement was meant to symbolize. Create your own conclusion!
That’s it for Ryoanji. Thank you very much for reading! Let me know if you found it useful.