Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders


2007/07/27 Ryoan-ji rock garden

Posted on July 27, 2007 by daviding

On our third — and last — day in the Kyoto area, Diana and I went to see the rock garden at Ryoan-ji, the famous Zen Buddhist temple.

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The placement is such that, from any angle, all of the rocks can not be simultaneously seen. At least one rock will always be hidden behind another.

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The image is famous, but the reality is that visitors are not allowed off the veranda, so that the gravel is not disturbed. Unfortunately, with the rock garden enclosed on three sides by walls, only the south overlook is available.

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Inside, there’s not much to see. At the entry, there’s a set of screens.

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The west porch has a connecting bridge to a private area.

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On the north side of the building, there’s a small water basin.

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South of the rock garden is a large pond.

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Looking westward over the pond, we saw a bridge.

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Walking around and over the bridge, there’s the torii symbolizing Shinto.

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We were amused by the stones dressed with aprons under the protection of a shed. In Shinto, everything is sacred, including stones.

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Even within a Zen Buddhist temple, there’s a Shinto shrine.

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The grounds are well groomed, and the shade from overhanging trees was a relief on another hot and humid day.

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Diana liked the support struts provided for many trees.

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Ryoan-ji is up in the northwest hills of Kyoto. The bus stops in front of Ritsumeikan University, with a ten-minute walk west to the temple. There are other famous temples nearby, that we didn’t get to see with only three days in Kyoto.

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2 to “2007/07/27 Ryoan-ji rock garden”

  1. KarenB says:

    When I was in Kyoto, visiting with another friend from Toronto, we were met by a Japanese friend from Nagano, who is a monk married to a German woman. Together, the three of us visited Ryoan-ji. We sat at the edge of the Zen garden, enjoying the serenity of the place, engaging in conversation. At the opposite end of the garden sat the only other visitors in that rather expansive space, a pair of western tourists. Suddenly, they indignantly and vociferously yelled at us to be quiet!! We were evidently ruining the zen experience that they had travelled an incredible distance to achieve. Without missing a beat, our Japanese host said, “My wife and I call these people stinky!”

  2. Pierreo says:

    The rock garden is a surreal experience. I never thought that a bunch of rocks and gravel could have such an effect on me.
    I am sorry that you did not get to see the nearby “Golden Pagda” – it is to me one of the highlights of Kyoto.
    I can also congratulate you for doing just what I tend to do in foreign places: leave one really good thing to do ro see, so that you just have to come back to complete the visit. I can sense that you will be back in Japan. WHen you do, just make sure you go back to Ryona-Ji, but also visit the “Golden Pagoda”, if possible in spring when the weather is not so hot and the cherry blossomes are in bloom – I still have to do that too…



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