Touring the Gardens of Kyoto

 In General Travel

The gardens of Japan are known world-wide for their beauty, fluidity, and character. Pathways offer unique, almost frame-like vistas as you walk through. Many of the country’s most culturally important gardens are in Kyoto, reflecting its position as the capitol of Japan for more than a thousand years.  Visiting these magnificent works of art is an essential part of most of our tours.

Each garden reflects the cultural practice of the time.  These range from the austerity reflected in gardens constructed during the Zen period, such as Ryoan-ji, the rock garden most photographed in Japan, to the part-Zen Silver Pavilion, to the complex, heavily planted, Chinese-inspired gardens surrounding the Golden Pavilion. One of the most interesting cultural transitions occur as you leave the modern streets of Kyoto and enter a centuries-old living design, like the less-than 600 square foot garden at the Great Hermit Temple, one of the best miniaturized landscapes in the world. While these are some of the most popular, we can customize and add many other choices for interests such as photography, time of year including cherry blossoms, and scenic views.

Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku, Rokuon-ji Temple)
1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8361

Built in 1395, the garden and temple of the Golden Pavilion is one of the monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. The strolling garden, in which different views manifest themselves from each vantage point, is an excellent example of the designs created during the Muromachi period. This period emphasized the close integration of building and landscape. A pond with ten small islands centers the design while recreating famous scenes from Japanese literature.

Silver Pavilion (Ginka-ku, Jisho-ji Temple)
2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8402

Constructed in 1480, the garden is made up of different elements of design. There is a famous sand garden with an iconic representation of Mt. Fuji, offset by a multitude of colors from a more traditional garden of carefully maintained moss amongst the trees.

Ryoan-ji (Ryoan-ji Temple)
13 Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8001

Constructed in 1499 and also just behind one of Kyoto’s city walls is perhaps the most famous rock garden, made of gravel, stones, and moss. Quite abstract, it is designed to spur contemplation. One rock out of fifteen is always hidden as you walk around the viewing area, itself also part of the design. When achieving enlightenment you are said to be able to see all 15 stones. It is also part of the Unesco World Heritage Site.

Great Hermit Temple (Daisen-in Temple)
54-1 Murasakino Daitokujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8231

Constructed beginning in 1509, this is more like a living painting, made up of four parts: waterfall, river, sea, and ocean, each represented by rocks and gravel. The overall design is meant to be symbolic of the journey of life.

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Local Bon Odori Festival, Kanagawa