Editors' Picks

Ryoan-ji Temple


On the outskirts of Kyoto (take a taxi to get here), the Zen temple of Ryoanji was founded in 1450. Originally the site of a villa, nestled among the forested slopes of the mountains, it was converted into a Zen temple in 1473. A small pond, Oshidori, said to be a thousand years old, lies below the buildings, but the main attraction is the garden: follow a gravel path around the lake, cross a narrow bridge and climb the steps to the temple. Once within the temple complex walk to the wooden verandah, which runs alongside the rooms of the abbot. The verandah faces a rectangular area enclosed on three sides.

The garden is comprised of fifteen stones, arranged in five groups. There are no plants, except some moss, and the sand is raked in circular patterns around the groups of stones. It is Japan’s most famous garden and reveals the stunning simplicity and harmony of the principles of Zen meditation. One of the Abbot’s of Ryoan-ji once said the garden might also be called mu-tei (garden of nothingness). The viewing platform is usually packed, but be patient until you can gain a good spot. Observing the garden, I had a serene feeling and wished I could stay for a long time. On my way out, I came across a stone water basin with the inscription “Ware tada tarno shiru,” which translates to “Freedom from greed ensures a peaceful life.”

Tip: Don’t miss a cup of so-called Kyoto tea on your way out of the temple premises. It’s green tea mixed with seaweed, plums and shiso (a Japanese spice) and tastes absolutely delicious.

Written by Christiane Deiters

What's Nearby

More Inspiration

Indagare employees walking up stiars

Enjoy 30 Days On Us!

Start your Self Planner
membership trial today.

Unlock access to 2,000+ first-hand hotel reviews, 300+ Destination Guides and the most up-to-date travel news and inspiration.

Already a member?

Welcome back,
log in to Indagare

Not a member?

Forgot Password

Enter your email and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.

Type the first 3 letters to begin