Nanzenji Temple


This temple was originally a retirement home for Emperor Kameyama (in 1264) but was later dedicated as a Zen temple. The present building dates from the 17th century. Nanzenji is now the headquarter of the Rinzai school and has been ranked as one of Kyoto’s five great Zen temples.

You enter through San-mon gate, up the path to the famous karesansui (dry garden) The garden is called toranoko-watachi, which means “young tigers crossing the water” after the shape of the rocks. You can sit on a wooden porch overlooking the garden, which consists of empty space, white raked gravel, some large stones, bushes and the famous tiger stones. Don’t miss the wonderful paintings of tigers covering the sliding doors and enjoy a cup of matcha tea and some sweets. There are many small sub-temples, which are often ignored by the crowds but well-worth visiting.

Tip: The path up to Nanzenji leads past several small restaurants that serve Kyoto’s specialty: tofu-ryori, a type of boiled tofu. This is a chance to try it where it is freshest.

Written by Christiane Deiters

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