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ryoan-ji temple

this world famous zen garden at ryoan-ji temple (龍安寺) is thought to be the epitome of zen art.  the garden consists of 15 rocks and white gravel arranged in such a way that all 15 moss-covered rocks cannot be seen at the same time.  only through enlightenment could such a feat be achieved.  the garden’s minimalist approach creates a wide set of interpretations depending on the viewer.  however a popular one is tora-no-ko watashi (虎の子渡し), meaning tiger cub passage.  whatever your interpretation of the garden at this UNESCO world heritage site in kyoto, you will be instantly impacted by its beauty and serenity.

another unique aspect of ryoan-ji is its stone wash basing, called tsukubai (蹲踞) in japanese, used for washing one’s hands before entering a temple.  the central bowl is made of the kanji for mouth, kuchi (口).  when this character is added to the four kanji surrounding the basin, they become 吾、唯、足、知.  this can be interpreted as a zen question meaning “i learn only to be contented” or “i learn, i am satisfied” or “i have the knowledge to be satisfied” or “i only know enough”.  i interpret this to mean that one should be satisfied with what he/she has.  true to its zen roots, the meaning is up to the interpreter.

as mentioned in my ninna-ji temple article, if you get here early, you can make a great day out of it.  you can visit ninna-ji (仁和寺), then ryoan-ji, and finally kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) all by foot.  you should check out all three sites.  :) admission to ryoan-ji temple is 500 yen.

depending on where you are in kyoto, you can take bus 59 or if you are in kyoto station take bus 50 and get off at ritsumeikan university (立命館大学前).  the closest train station is omuro ninna-ji station (御室仁和寺), but getting to this train station can be complicated depending on where you are coming from.

the zen rock garden:

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kuri (庫裡), the main building of ryoan-ji temple and the surrounding garden:

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kyoyochi pond (鏡容池):

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map view of the location:

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