heavenly dragon temple, or tenryu-ji (天龍寺), is best known for its zen garden. considered the number one of the five great temples of kyoto, kyoto gozan (京都五山), it also serves as the head temple of the tenryu sect of rinzai zen buddhism. tenryu-ji has had all of its buildings rebuilt due to destruction by fire. the zen garden however, has been around since the 14th century. you can arrive at tenryu-ji by city bus or by JR train from kyoto station to saga arashiyama station (嵯峨嵐山駅). take the south exit and walk down the street for about 200 meters (220 yards), then make a right turn just before you get to the train tracks (different line). you will walk straight into tenryu-ji after 350 meters (380 yards).
if you are coming from osaka, you can also take the hankyu (阪急) train to arashiyama station. from this station you will have great scenery walking towards the temple. from the station walk northwardly, you will cross a small wooden bridge to reach a small island.
in this small island you will find a couple of shops and restaurants, as well as a small park with banks on the river. you will find many people relaxing here and having a small picnic during lunch time. on the north side of the large bridge you can rent paddle boats for a relaxing (or romantic) lazy ride on the river, or even rent a guide to go a bit further (no english at the time i was there).
you will need to cross the river, just follow the crowd!
walking down the same street that the bridge is on, you will see many souvenir shops and restaurants. many shops offer ma-cha (抹茶), a bitter green tea with a sweet. this is one such shop.
continuing down this sidewalk, you will come to the entrance to tenryu-ji after a casual 7 minute walk. you will see signs and the gate, which will be on your left. just past the gate with the path leading to the main temple in tenryu-ji.
on both sides of the path there are several smaller temples that you can visit. there is also a nice pond filled with lotus plants. it must look awesome when in bloom.
this is one of the temples to the side of the walking path.
an end-piece roof tile looking at us past some prayer notes.
once you arrive at the entrance, you will have two options. you can buy a ticket to get access to just the garden for 500 yen, its the entrance to the left. its a nice walk through the garden, including a few trails up on the hill behind the pond. don’t lose your ticket, for an additional 100 yen you can then enter the buildings themselves. there a few nice rooms to sit down on tatami floor mats and relax while you view the garden.
this is one angled view of the back garden.
a different angle. the view of the garden was awesome. i only wish i could have drank some matcha tea while sitting on the tatami floor mats. it was very relaxing looking out into the garden.
you can’t enter this room, but it has a nice layout.
feel free to rest here, but no sleeping is allowed. ;)
you can exit tenryu-ji by the north gate and head on over to the bamboo grove and then on to okochi-sanso villa (大河内山荘) for a nice japanese garden, some matcha and a sweet, as well as a good view of kyoto. but if you go back to the street, make a left and enter the bamboo grove after a short walk you will see much more. here’s a photo of the bamboo grove.
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