A Visit to Ryouan Temple (Kyoto, Japan)

(Also see my autumn visit post for some wonderful fall colors)

Last week (Jul 27, 2005), Fumie and I visited Ryouanji (龍安寺 — the Ryouan Temple) in the north-west part of Kyoto (map). It's sort of at the edge of the built-up city: it's close, but once you're on the grounds, it feels as if you're in the middle of nowhere. It's quite picturesque. It was wonderfully uncrowded (the nearby ultra-popular Golden Pavilion (金閣寺 -- Kinkakuji) probably draws the crowds — all the better to leave this place deserted for us!)

Perhaps it was because I'd been out of Japan for the previous three months, but I was quite taken with the grounds. (The temple is perhaps best known for its rock garden, which didn't do much for me.) The grounds have a pond with a little island, with a quaint arched bridge going across to it. The lake is surrounded by quiet paths.

I took a lot of pictures, and many of them came out quite nicely, I think. In particular, I think a number of them would make nice desktop backgrounds.

Here are a few shots across the lake to the bridge. This is pretty much the first view one gets of the lake:

As with all of these pictures, try the “large” or “massive” version and you'll be able to appreciate them more (if your browser automatically shrinks large pictures to fit, you may want to try clicking on the picture to expand it a bit).

Even the walk from the (free for the first hour!) parking is nice, with a little moss garden....
...followed by a nicely done small area of shops and the bathrooms.

Near the island are a bunch of Lily pads (or whatever they're called — they were pretty).

Someone was kind enough to take our picture while we sat on the little arched bridge:

(This shot of Fumie alone that I took is a bit nicer than the one above. I'll leave it to you to decide if it's better because I took the shot, or because I'm not in it 🙂

Near the entrance to the temple proper was a small “purification” basin with water running out of a bamboo spout. I tried to get an artistic shot, but didn't really get it.

Here's the famous rock garden itself, which dates from the 15th century (rocks last a long time). It's inside the temple, which has a 500 yen ($5) admission, which is not required for just touring the grounds. Most people we saw during the trip where sitting by this rock garden, but it didn't really do much for me. I guess I lack Zen.
Here's what remained after a couple of large groups cleared out.
As for me, I found this doorway to be more interesting (it's just to the left of where I was sitting when I took the rock-garden picture above)

Follow the veranda past the rock garden, turn right, and you find this pleasant little hideaway
This view might make a nice desktop background.

Continue along the veranda and turn right again, and you come across this little wash basin.
There is a center square with four partial Chinese characters around it. The square symbol completes each partial character (albeit in a lopsidedly large way) to create four characters that mean “I learn to be only contented (in this imperfect world)”. This type of basin is to be used to purify oneself before entering the tea room to partake in the tea ceremony, or something like that.

Back out on the public grounds, the path on the far side of the lake was beautiful and serene..... and also pleasantly deserted.
A little stream leading off somewhere....
A sub-path leading off somewhere....

Looking back across the lake to the side we started on:

Near the end, you see this little road leading away. It may be hard to imagine, but just out of view around the corner is a major city street.

(Here's a link to all the photos taken during the trip.)

(Here's a post about an autumn visit to Ryouanji with many colorful shots.)

All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

love your autumn photos…I am a huge fan of fall…nice to see it in Japan…thank you for sharing…

— comment by Dianna Hauser on September 14th, 2006 at 6:50am JST (17 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Thank you so much for sharing your personal tour of this famous shrine. Your pictures really gave me a feel of the space.


— comment by Cathy on January 14th, 2007 at 3:06pm JST (16 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink
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