5 Japanese-style Gardens in Kyoto to Appreciate Japanese Beauty

5 Japanese-style Gardens in Kyoto to Appreciate Japanese Beauty

9 Jan 2020

KANSAI Tourism Bureau

The Japanese garden, where visitors can enjoy scenery that changes with the turning seasons, relaxes and soothes the spirit simply by being gazed upon. Here, we introduce 5 beautiful gardens in the ancient city of Kyoto that best represent the Japanese aesthetic sense.

1. Ryoan-ji Temple

The World Heritage listed Ryoan-ji Temple (established around 1450) is home to a dry rock garden called the Hojo Garden, which is famous worldwide. Packed into about 248 square meters of white sand, with 15 rocks of varying sizes arranged within, this renowned garden is truly mysterious—its period of construction, intention, and creator are all unknown. You can enjoy it various ways—gaze upon the mystery with your own interpretation, or resist the temptation to give it any meaning and just bask in the beauty of this minimal space. It’s about 40 minutes by bus from Kyoto Station.

【Facility name】 Ryoan-ji Temple
【Opening hours】 March - November: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm December - February: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
【Days Closed】 Open every day
【Price】 Adults & high school students 500 yen, elementary & junior high school students 300 yen
【URL】 Official website (Japanese only)
【Address】 13 Ryoanji Goryonoshita-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 Google Map

2. Nanzen-ji Temple

Nanzen-ji, established in 1291, is among the pre-eminent Zen temples in Kyoto. There are several gardens within the temple grounds, offering visitors a taste of different gardens, from a garden built during the Edo period (1603–1867) to a modern garden built in the 1960s. Especially recommended is the Hojo Garden, a national designated scenic spot. It is a dry rock garden in which large white stones are arranged in a pleasing and well-balanced manner. On the grounds, there is a space where you can enjoy matcha green tea and Japanese sweets (for a charge) while viewing a small garden where a waterfall cascades, making it a perfect place to relax! It’s about 30 minutes by train from Kyoto Station.

【Facility name】 Nanzen-ji Temple
【Opening hours】 March 1 – November 30: 8:40 am – 5 pm December 1 to end of February: 8:40 am to 4:30 pm
【Days Closed】 Not open to the general public from December 28 to 31
【Price】 Entrance fee for Hojo Garden: Adults 500 yen, high school students 400 yen, elementary & junior high school students 300 yen
【URL】 Official website
【Address】 Nanzenji Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 Google Map

3. Tofuku-ji Temple

Tofuku-ji Temple, founded over 760 years ago, is about 15 minutes by train then on foot from Kyoto Station, and is famous for the modern design of its Honbo Garden. This garden is located inside a building in the temple precincts, known as the Hojo. There are four stylish gardens situated to the east, west, south, and north—for instance, the northern garden boasts paving stones placed in an innovative checkerboard pattern, while the southern garden resonates with the vital energy of its massive rocks. These playful gardens are great spots for taking unique photos!

【Facility name】 Tofuku-ji Temple
【Opening hours】 April to end of October: 9 am to 4 pm November to first Sunday in December: 8:30 am – 4 pm First Sunday in December to end of March: 9 am – 3:30 pm
【Days Closed】 Open every day
【Price】 Honbo Garden entrance fee: 400 yen (elementary & junior high school students 300 yen)
【URL】 Official website
【Address】 15-778 Honmachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 Google Map

4. Kennin-ji Temple

Kennin-ji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, is about 20 minutes by Kyoto Station by bus. Although it's located in a lively area near Gion, one of Kyoto’s top shopping districts, silence unfolds when you step into the temple precincts. There are several gardens in the temple grounds, such as the Daiou-en, a magnificent dry rock garden in the classic Zen style. If visiting in the fall, when the autumnal foliage is beautiful, or when the fresh green is dazzling in early summer, you should definitely visit the Cho-on Garden. It's designed to be viewed from all four directions, so you can see the beautiful harmony of maple, moss, and stonework colored with the refreshing green of summer and the crimson of fall!

【Facility name】 Kennin-ji
【Opening hours】 10 am – 5 pm *1 pm – 5 pm on January 2, May 15 & November 15
【Days Closed】 April 19 & 20, June 4 & 5 *Some areas may not be accessible on the second Friday, Saturday, or Sunday in April (or the 3rd week, depending on the year)
【Price】 Admission fee: Adults 500 yen, junior high & high school students 300 yen, elementary school students 200 yen, free for preschool children
【URL】 Official website
【Address】 Komatsu-cho, Yamatooji-dori Shijo-sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 Google Map

5. Tenryu-ji Temple

Located about 30 minutes by train and then on foot from Kyoto Station, Tenryu-ji, founded in 1339, is a famous Zen temple registered as a World Heritage Site. It is home to the Sogenchi Garden, which was Japan’s first designated Site of Special Historic and Scenic Importance. Tenryu-ji Temple was hit by eight major fires in the past, but the Sogenchi Garden miraculously survived each disaster, leaving its appearance as it was about 700 years ago. The contrast between the white sand, representing the flow of water, and seasonal expressions such as cherry blossoms, dark green leaves, autumnal leaves, and snow scenes is a highlight. For best views, we recommend viewing from on the verandah of the O-Hojo, the largest building in the temple precincts, but please note that a separate 300 yen admission fee is required.

【Facility name】 Tenryu-ji Temple
【Opening hours】 8:30 am – 5 pm *March 21 – October 20: 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
【Days Closed】 Open every day
【Price】 Entrance fee for gardens only (Sogenchi & Hyakka-en Gardens): High school students and over 500 yen, elementary & junior high school students 300 yen, free for preschool children
【URL】 Official website
【Address】 68 Susukinobaba-cho, Sagatenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 Google Map

Go ahead and spend some quiet time in a beautiful garden that will make you forget the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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