Ryoanji islocated in northwestern Kyoto. It is a temple belonging to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai branch of the Zen sect.

<< The Japanese rock garden at Ryoan-ji temple in northwest Kyoto


In December 1994, this temple was designated as World Heritage by UNESCO. The earliest temple recorded on this site dates from 983, though it was originally the estate of one of the branches of the Fujiwara family during the Heian period. After serving as the retirement home of an emperor it became a temple known as Tokudaiji (also referred to as Enyuji).

Hosokawa Katsumoto (1430-73), a military commander of the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) then built his estate on the ruins, but he was killed during the Onin Wars (1467-77) and left the 120 acres of the estate to become a temple - this was when Ryoanji was founded. The Onin wars however were not yet over, and along with almost the entire city of Kyoto, the original buildings were burnt to the ground as the city became a battlefield.

Reconstruction took place during the period 1488-1499 and it is generally thought that the temple's highly acclaimed rock garden, which fronts the hojo (superior's hall), was built soon thereafter.

What to see

The temple's main attraction is its "karesansui" or rock garden, the most famous of its kind in Japan. The simple Zen garden, 30 m wide and 10 m deep consist of nothing but rocks, moss and neatly raked gravel. The garden contains 15 rocks arranged on the surface of white pebbles in such a manner that visitors can see only 14 of them at once, from whichever angle the garden is viewed

The meaning of the garden's arrangement is unknown and up to each visitor's interpretation. Only when you attain spiritual enlightment as a result of deep Zen meditation, can you see the last invisible stone with your mind' eye.


13, Goryonoshita-cho, Ryoanji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto City.
Tel: 075-463-2216

By Bus
Ryoanji-mae bus stop by City Bus No.59. Ritsumeikan-University-mae bus stop by City Bus No.50,55.

3/1-11/30= 8:00am - 5:00pm (march - November) & 8:30am - 4:30pm (December - February).

400yen for Adult, 200yen for child, free for baby. There is a free parking for a car.

More information at Asian Historical Architecture