Gardens in Kyoto include the ones at the Imperial Palace, Heian Shrine, Ginkakauji Temple, Shugaku-in Imperial Villa, Sanzen-in Temple, Kinkakuji Temple, Ryoanji Temple, Tenryuji Temple, Katsura Rikyu Imperial Villa, Saiho-ji Temple Moss Garden, Daichiji Temple, Jonangu Temple, Nijo Castle, and Tofukuji Temple. For more details see these places. Websites: Kyoto ; Japanese Garden ;

The classic Japanese garden is an artificial garden that reproduces natural scenic beauty in a heightened intensity. Its charm lies in its subtle, highly sophisticated layout in a limited space.The aim of Japanese landscape gardening, which has a long history of development, is to create a scenic composition by arranging rocks, trees, shrubs and running water in such a way as to create the sweep of a vast landscape. [Source: JNTO]

Japanese gardens are usually referred to as the “hill garden” (“tsukiyama”) and the “waterless stream garden” (“karesansui”) The hill garden features a hill usually combined with a pond and a stream. It can be viewed from various vantage points, as you stroll along the paths, or appreciate it from within a house to which it is attached. Fine specimens of this style are the gardens of Tenryuji Temple and Saihoji Temple, both in Kyoto. In the dry landscape garden, rocks and sands form the main elements, the sea being symbolized not by water but by a layer of sand with furrows suggestive of the rippling movement, and waterfalls by an arrangement of rocks. Examples of this style are the gardens of Ryoanji Temple and Daitokuji Temple, also in Kyoto.

With the introduction of the tea ceremony in the 14th century, the chaniwa (garden attached to the tea-ceremony house) came to be designed and laid out. Actually, it is not a garden but a narrow path leading up to the chashitsu (tearoom proper) The aim of the designer of this style was to create a feeling of solitude and detachment from the world. A tea garden is mainly featured by the placement of stepping stones. Most of the tea gardens are not open to the public.

Ticket windows are usually closed 30 min. or 1 hr. before closing time. The gardens are mostly closed from December 28 to January 4. The time-saving and convenient way to see the Japanese gardens in Kyoto is to join one of the tours. Reservation is required. (by phone or Internet) Course Time required Fare Operated by Nijo Castle – Kinkakuji Temple – Kyoto Imperial Palace – (Nishi Honganji) – Lunch – Heian Jingu Shrine – Sanjusangendo Temple – Kiyomizudera Temple 10 hrs. 30 min. ¥11,600 Sunrise Tours (075) 341-1413 Tour with an Englishspeaking guide. On Saturday, Sunday, national holidays and some other days when Kyoto Old Imperial Palace is closed, the tour will visit Nishi Honganji, instead. On Tue. in January, July, Aug and December when Nijo Castle is closed, the tour visit Ryoanji Temple, or Daitokuji Daisen-in Temple, instead. Kinkakuji – Kiyomizudera – Arashiyama – Heian Jingu Shrine 7 hrs. – 8 hrs. ¥6,460 Keihan Bus/Kyoto City Bus (075) 672-2100 Tour with a Japanese-speaking guide Kyoto Imperial Palace – Daitokuji Hombo-Daisen-in Weekdays only Lunch – Sennyuji – Daitokuji Daisen-in Temple 5 hrs. ¥7,160

Gardens at Famous Places in Kyoto

Imperial Palace Garden Park (Near Marutamachi Subway Station) is large park around the Imperial Palace. It embraces expansive lawns, 9,000 trees and ponds filled colorful carp. It is a nice place to relax, have a picnic and escape from the hustle and bustle of Japanese life and sightseeing. Many people come to view the plum blossoms in March and the cherry Blossoms in April.

Located almost in the center of the city, this huge park-like compound includes several palace buildings. It was also the location of many fine residences belonging to the ranking noble court families. These residences were torn down and a massive park, with lawns and over 9,000 trees, was created. Today, this extensive park area is a highly popular recreation and relaxation zone. Address: Kyoto Gyoen-nai, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto (in the Kyoto Old Imperial Palace compound).

Imperial Palace Garden (5-minute walk from Imadegawa Subway Station) contains is a lovely Japanese-style garden, which is open to the public. Covering 200 acres and overlooked by the Emperor's sleeping quarters, this garden was once considered to be too beautiful to enter. The garden was designed by Kobori Enshu (1579–1647). It is especially beautiful in the fall when the mounds of clover that are green in the summer turn to bright yellow. Foreign visitors on the palace tour also visit the Imperial Garden. Guided tours (English Audio Guidance) are available.

Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) Garden is a landscape garden for strolling around the pond to enjoy the changing view of the Gold Pavilion. Residence of the 3rd Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimitsu constructed in the 14th century. Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm Admission: ¥400. Getting There: Near Kinkakuji-michi Bus Stop.

Ninomaru Garden of Nijo Castle is a landscape garden for strolling and viewing from within a building, constructed in the 17th century. A garden designed for welcoming the Emperor’s visit. Address: 54 Nijojocho, Nijodori Horikawa Nishiiru Nakagyoku, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:45–4:00pm Closed Tue. of January, July, Augustand December Admission: ¥600. Getting There: Near Nijojo-mae Bus Stop.


Tofukuji Temple and Garden

Tofukuji Temple (about a 30 minute walk from Kyoto Station, or Inari Station on the JR Nara line) is the largest Zen Temple in Kyoto. Founded in 1239, it covers an area of 200,000 square meters and contains a Hojo garden with stones, dwarf azelea and moss arranged in a checkerboard pattern and a Big Dipper constellation laid out in stones. Tokofuji is one of the favorite places in Kyoto to view autumn leaves. There are beautiful maple trees in a small valley along a creek that can be observed from wooden bridges over the creek

Tofukuji Fundain Temple Garden is a Dry landscape garden laid out in the 15th century by Sesshu (1420–1506), a famous painter. The Kame-ishi or Tortoise Stone placed in the moss-covered garden surrounded by bamboo seems almost as if it were living and about to move. 10-minute walk from JR or Keihan Tofukuji Station (in the Tofukuji Te Address: 15-803 Hommachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm (–4:00pm December–March) Admission: ¥300 Tofukuji Hojo: Dry gardens in four different types rebuilt in 1938. The north garden is famous for the moss and square stones creating an Ichimatsu checkered design. The coloring of leaves are exquisitely beautiful viewed from the roofed passage called Tsuutenkyo. Address: 15-778 Hommachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-4:00pm , 8:30am-4:00pm (November), 9:00am-15:30 (December– March) Admission: ¥400 Getting There: 10-minute walk from JR or Keihan Tofukuji Station (in the Tofukuji Temple).

Tofukuji Kaisando Temple Garden is a Pond garden and dry garden, both constructed in the 18th century. The left side of the narrow passage from the entrance is an ichimatsu patterned dry landscape in the Zen Buddhist style. On the right is a pond garden in the Chikuzan fashioned samurai household study style. The two combined create an exquisite taste. 10-minute walk from JR or Keihan Tofukuji Station. Address: 15-778 Hommachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-4:00pm , 8:30am-4:00pm (November), 9:00am-15:30 (December– March) Admission: ¥400

Ryoanji Temple and Garden

Ryoanji Temple (No. 59 bus from Sanjyo-Keihan Station on Tozai subway line) is a Zen temple established in 1450 by Hosokawa Katsumoto. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is belongs to the Myoshinji branch of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism and is best known for its dry landscape garden. The temple was once large than it is now as destroyed over the years by fire have not been rebuilt. Toyotomi Hideoyishi, the warlord who reunified Japan in 1590, is buried here with his wife and son.

The temple grounds are comprised of old soil and new soil mixed with saltwater and lime. In the strolling garden are cedars, whose branches are sawed off when the tree is young and trained to grow straight up. A stone basin in back of the abbot’s quarters has Chinese characters that read: “I just know satisfaction.”

Address: 13 Goryonoshitamachi, Ryoanji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:00am-5:00pm (March–November), 8:30am-4:30pm (December–February) Admission: ¥500. Getting There: Near Ryoanji-mae Bus Stop. Websites: Ryoanji site ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; UNESCO World Heritage site: UNESCO website; Japan Guide ;


Ryoanji Garden (at Ryoanji Temple) is a A world cultural heritage site and one of the most famous gardens in Japan. An exquisite example of a dry landscape-style garden, it consists of 15 rocks of various sizes, well placed on a carefully-raked bed of white gravel, this small garden was created sometime between 1499 and 1507 by Zen monks and covers 256 square meters. There are no trees or shrubs. the only green is from moss that grows on some of the rocks. One scholar described it as "a beautiful poem, a simple statuary, a deep philosophy, a wonderful picture...and a profound religion."

Ryoanji Temple Garden is noted for stone arrangements in a rectangular space of white sand. With the ultimate beauty in its simplest form, removing everything that is unnecessary, you are able to actually experience the thoughts of Zen Buddhism, facing the garden and rejecting any superfluous explanations. The 15 rocks and white gravel are supposed to imitate water. From nowhere except the temple can the rocks all be seen at once. The rocks are divided into five groups of two, three or five. Each group can be regarded as the cardinal directions and the center, which some interpret as representing existence and the universe But reading too much meaning into the garden defies the Zen aesthetic of simplicity and austerity. Many believe the stones represent a range of mountains or a coastal scene or a dry waterfall.

The creators of the garden are not known. Two names are carved on of the rocks but its is not known whether the are names of designers, laborers or ancient tourists. It is a good idea to go early to this garden if you want to contemplate its simple beauty without being engulfed by school groups and tourists.

Shugaku Imperial Villa Garden

Shugaku-in Imperial Villa (No.5 bus from Sanjyo Station on Tozai subway line) is the largest private compound in Kyoto. Covering 540,000 square meters, the villa embraces three large hillside gardens (lower, middle and upper) with wonderful ponds and trails. Guided tours (English Audio Guidance) are available.

The stroll garden was laid out in the 17th century and is characterized by the unification of nature and garden. The gardens are famous for their use of borrowed scenery. The upper tea garden was built to harmonize with mountains — namely Mt. Kuruma and Mt. Atago — that are 10 kilometers in the distance. There are wonderful views from the tea house here.

garden at Shugaku-in
Imperial Villa
Shugakuin requires special permission to visit. Reservations are made at Imperial Household Agency on the west side of Imperial Palace Gardens (near the Imadegawa subway station). Reservations are required in advance at the Kyoto Imperial Household Agency at least one day before the tour date. Bring your passport or Alien Registration Card to the Agency office. Or apply by Internet four days before the tour date. Apply as far in advance as possible. Requests sometimes have to be made three months in advance. Entry is limited to those aged 18 or over. Application should be made internet or through in person with your passport at the Imperial Household Agency at Kyoto Imperial park (Tel:075-211-1215) For more info and reservation

Address: Shugakuin, Sakyo-ku Getting There: 15-minute walk from Shugakuin-Rikyu-michi Bus Stop or Shugakuin Station on Eizan Dentetsu Line. Websites: Imperial Household Agency / ; Photes ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ;

Katsura Rikyu Imperial Villa Gardens

Katsura Rikyu Imperial Villa Gardens(No. 33 bus from Kyoto Station in southwest Kyoto) is regarded as one of the finest examples of Japanese architecture. Built in the 17th century by Prince Toshihito, the brother of the Emperor, it is a beautifully arranged complex with a main villa, tea houses, and garden. Guided tours (English Audio Guidance) are available.

Katsura Rikyu boasts a lovely pleasure-style garden laid out in the 17th century. Covering 45,000 square meters, the garden is renowned as an outstanding example of Japanese landscape gardening. it consists of stones, pine trees, flowers and foliage set up around a series of paths that lead to delicately constructed tea houses around a pond fed by the Katsura River. Frequent rains keep the dense azaleas and camellias almost permanently damp. Katsura Rikyu ranked No. 2 as the best garden in Japan by the U.S. publication the “Journal of Japanese Gardening” . The gardens at Adachi Museum in Yasugi Shimane have been ranked No. 1 for four consecutive years.

Katsura requires special permission to visit it. Reservations are made at Imperial Household Agency on the west side of Imperial Palace Gardens (near the Imadegawa subway station). Reservations are required in advance at least one day before the tour date. Bring your passport or Alien Registration Card to the Agency office. Or apply by Internet four days before the tour date. Apply as far in advance as possible. Requests sometimes have to be made three months in advance. Entry is limited to those aged 18 or over. Application should be made internet or through in person with your passport at the Imperial Household Agency at Kyoto Imperial park (Tel:075-211-1215) For more info and reservation Address: Misono, Katsura Nishikyo-ku, Getting There: 20-minute walk from Katsura Station on Hankyu Dentetsu Line or reached from Katsura-Rikyu-mae Bus Stop. Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Imperial Household Agency ; Tour of Katsura Rikyu

Saiho-ji Temple Moss Garden

Saiho-ji Temple Moss Garden (No. 29 bus from Shijo Street Station on Karasuma subway line in southwest Kyoto) is Kyoto's most famous garden and one the most famous gardens in the world. Brochures say that 120 varieties of lush green moss flourish in the heavily wooded garden, but the true figure is closer to 20. The best to time see the garden is after a rain storm when the trees and moss are dripping wet and steamy sunbeams pierce the shade. Admission is limited to 100 visitors at one time and booking has to be done up to 90 days in advance.

Saihoji Temple Garden is a world cultural heritage site. It consists of upper and lower layers of arranged rockwork, the spring pond garden on the flat ground and the dry landscape on the mountainside, creating a world of “yugen” (quiet beauty or the subtle and the profound) with its 100 or so different kinds of moss and tree groves. A landscape garden in the go-round style or boating style. Reservations are required to visit.

Saihoji Temple Garden can only be visited as part of an organized tour. Costing around $30 and starting at exactly 10:00am, the tour begin with a visit to the temple, where guests pray and write their name with a calligraphy brush, and then follow a path from the temple that leads past carefully-placed rocks, treasured pines, Japanese maples, Hinoki cypress, “sugi” (Japanese redwood), towering sasanqua — all surrounded by carpets of moss in varying intensities of green, dark green and yellowish green. If you walk slowly, the tour group forges ahead, while you can stroll serenely and soak up the damp beauty.

Address: 56 Matsuo-Jingatani-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto Getting There: Near Koke-dera Bus Stop or walk from Kami-Katsura Station on Hankyu Arashiyama Line. Websites: Official site ; Photos Applying for Admission: Apply by mail from one week to 2 months ahead of the date of your intended visit. (Applicaion must reach the temple at least one week before your visit.). On a return postcard, please write your preferred date, time, representative’s mailing address, name and number of people. Sightseeing time is one and a half hours, but depending on that day’s religious event, time for sightseeing differs. Cost is more than ¥3,000. Visitors participate Kito (chant) and Shakyo (sutra copying) before seeing the garden. Apply to: Saihoji Sanpaikakari, 56 Matsuo-Jingatani-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 615-8286 Tel: 075-391-3631

Gardens in Eastern Kyoto

Shoren-in Temple Garden is a Stroll gardens constructed by Soami and Kobori Enshu in the 16th century. The straight-line shaped washbasin donated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi is a rare masterpiece. Address: 69-1 Sanjobo-cho, Awataguchi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm Admission: ¥500. Getting There: 3-minute walk from Jingu-michi Bus Stop.

Murin-an Villa Garden is a Landscape garden with richly flowing waterfall drawn from Lake Biwa which incorporates the distant view of Higashiyama Hill in its design, laid out in 1896. Address: 31 Kusagawacho, Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm Admission: ¥400. Getting There: Near Keage Station on Subway Tozai Line.

Heian Shrine (west of Okazaki Park and accessible from Higashiyama Station in the Tozai subway line) contains several buildings spread around a huge courtyard and landscaped garden. A 5/8 scaled version of the original Imperial Palace, it was constructed in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto and is dedicated to the spirit of Emperor Kammu (A.D. 781-806). The shrine has three ponds and five gardens which are admired for its cherry blossoms and iris flowers in season. Many people complain that the bright red buildings are too gaudy and the garden is nice but isn't necessarily worth the ¥600 admission charge.

Heian Jingu Shrine Garden is a Stroll garden constructed in 1895. This garden is well-known for its weeping cherry trees, maple trees, azaleas, irises and waterlilies. Characterized by the bridges crossing over the spring pond Taiheikaku and Garyokyo (stepping stones). Address: 97 Nishi-Tennocho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:30am-6:30pm (–4:30pm November–February, –5:00pm March 1–14 and October) Admission: ¥600. Getting There: Near Bijutsukanmae or Kyoto Kaikan Bus Stop.

Chishakuin Temple and Garden

Chishakuin Temple (Near Higashiyama Nanajo) is the headquarters of the Chisan School of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism, is a large temple complex accommodating high earthen walls standing on old stone bases, the dignified So-mon Gate facing Shichijo Street, and many other temple halls with Mt. Amida as a backdrop. The temple sits at the southern end of the 36 Higashiyama mountain ridges in Kyoto with over 20 temple halls nestled in the deep forest. Here you can learn about the important temple halls and buildings in the precinct. Discover the long and eventful history of Chishakuin Temple and enjoy exploring the large grounds.

The temple storage houses the National Treasure murals, claimed to be the best in Japan, painted by Tohaku Hasegawa and his disciples in the Momoyama period (16th century). One of Tohaku’s golden gorgeous paintings housed in Chishakuin Temple today used to adorn one of the halls of Shounzen-ji Temple (a predecessor of Chishakuin Temple). “Maple Tree,” “Cherry Blossoms,” “Pine Tree and Hollyhock” and “Pine Tree with Autumn Plants” are all designated as National Treasures. Experience the dynamic spectacle of these classic paintings depicting nature’s grandeur

Chishakuin Temple Garden is a Landscape garden for viewing from within a building, designed by Sen-no-Rikyu (1522– 1591), the great ceremonial tea master of the Momoyama Period. The garden retains a vestige of its former glory. According to the temples website: The origin of this garden, which is said to have been the favorite style of Sen-no Rikyu, the master of tea ceremony, was made in Shounzen-ji Temple (a predecessor of Chishakuin Temple) established by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Later, after the temple was renamed Chishakuin, the 7th generation head monk, Unsho, took good care of the garden and transformed it into of the best gardens in the Higashiyama district.

“The garden is said to have pioneered the style of introducing artificial hills (tsukiyama) and a pond. Taking advantage of the natural elevation, the garden incorporates an artificial hill form replicating Mt. Rozan in China with a pond in the foreground. Rocks are skillfully allocated on and at the bottom of the hill to create a perfect aesthetic balance. The Daishoin Room, in which mural paintings (National Treasures) were formerly displayed, faces this garden. The pond extends beneath the porch of the Daishoin which is a similar feature, called Tsuridono, to the Shinden-zukuri architecture of the Heian period (794-1185). Viewing the garden from the Daishoin Room is superb in every season. Particularly noteworthy is when rhododendrons are at their height from late May to late June. The garden is adorned with colorful rhododendron flowers which will captivate all visitors.” Address: 964 Higashikawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-16:00 Admission: ¥500. Getting There: Near Higashiyama Nanajo Bus Stop. Website: The temples official site:

Nanzenji Temple and Gardens

Nanzenji Temple (near Heian Shrine, east of Okazaki Park) is a pleasant Zen temple with a large grounds and many buildings. Originally a retirement villa for the Emperor Kameyama, who died in 1291, it is famous for its Sammon Gate, and the Karensansui (dry-landscape) garden laid out with rocks and white sand. Most of the present buildings date to the 17th century.

In the Main Hall there is sliding screen painting of a tiger drinking water made in the 16th century by the artists of the Kano School who had never seen a real tiger and relied descriptions from Chinese and Indian sources. The result is a tiger that looks a dog. A path in the forest leads to a small shrine near a waterfall, under which monks pray in the middle of winter. From here hiking trails lead to Mt. Daimonji.

Nanzenji Hojo (Chief Abbot’s Chamber) is a Dry garden constructed in the 17th century by Kobori Enshu (1579–1647). A samurai general and master of tea ceremony who also demonstrated his versatility in architecture and gardening. One of the typical gardens of Zen temples. An arrangement of garden rocks called “The crossing of tiger cubs,” depicting a scene where the mother tiger leads its cubs across the river. Address: Fukuchicho, Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:40–5:00pm (–4:30pm December–February) Admission: ¥500. Getting There: 10-minute walk from Keage Station on Subway Tozai Line. (in Nanzenji Temple)

Nanzenji Konchi-in Temple Garden is a Dry garden constructed in the 17th century by Kobori Enshu. A special nationally designated site for its scenic beauty. One of the most celebrated gardens in Kyoto. Address: Fukuchicho, Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:30am-5:00pm (–4:30pm December–February) Admission: ¥400. Getting There: 10-minute walk from Keage Station on Subway Tozai Line (in Nanzenji Temple)

Nanzenji Nanzen-in Temple Garden is a Landscape garden for viewing from within a building, constructed in the 14th century by Muso Kokushi (1275–1351), a distinguished Zen priest. Its seclusive mood merging into the mountain landscape in the background attracts the visitor. Address: Fukuchicho, Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:40–5:00pm (–4:30pm December–February) Admission: ¥300. Getting There: 10-minute walk from Keage Station on Subway Tozai Line (in Nanzenji Temple)

Ginkakuji (Silver) Temple

Ginkakuji garden
Ginkakuji Temple (at the end of the Path of Philosophy) was originally erected in 1489 as a villa for Ashikaga Shogun, a powerful warlord and shogun in the Muromachi Period (1336-1573). Designated as a UNESCO World heritage Site, it is called the Silver ("Gin") Temple because the Shogun's originally wanted to cover the outer walls with silver foil. His wish was not realized because of his death, however, but the name has remained.

There are some lovely sliding door paintings inside the buildings but you have to pay extra to see them. The most enjoyable thing to do is sit on the edges of the main hall and enjoy the view of the garden and the pond. The main Zen-style building overlooks a pond surrounded by one of the best examples of a stroll style garden in Japan. The garden in fact is much more interesting than the temple.

Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion) Garden is a stroll garden combined with a dry garden built in the 15th century. The layout was influenced by the thought of Zen Buddhism. The Ginshadan of sand waves in front of the silver pavilion and the Kogetsudai with its piles of sand are beautiful. A path through garden meanders through a hillsides and passes moss-covered ground, trees, and a dry garden with white sand waves “Ginsyadan” (the Sea of Silver Sand) and decapitated cone of “Kougetsudai” (the Moon Mound), which represents Mt. Fuji. Address: 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:30am-5:00pm (9:00am-16:30 December–February) Admission: ¥500. Getting There: Near Ginkakuji-michi Bus Stop. Websites: Shokoku ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; UNESCO World Heritage site: UNESCO website

Hakusasonso Villa Garden is a Stroll garden built in 1916 by Hashimoto Kansetsu, a famous contemporary Japanese-style painter. On the way to Ginkakuji Temple. Address: 37 Jodoji-ishibashicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 10:00am-5:00pm Admission: ¥800. Getting There: Near Ginkakuji-michi Bus Stop.

Gardens in North Kyoto

Shisen-do Temple (near Shugaku-in Imperial Villa) was originally the private retreat of Jozan Ishikawa (1583–1672), a renowned Edo period poet, scholar and samurai who served under Tokugawa Ieyasu. A delicate, diminutive structure, it flows naturally into an exquisite, microscopic garden, a masterpiece of landscaped art. Built in 1641, it houses a gallery with portraits of 36 famous Chinese poets. It is a wonderful oasis of calm and tranquility.

Shisendo Temple Garden is a Stroll garden with running water “yari-mizu,” laid out in the 17th century by Ishikawa Jozan, who designed the “sozu” or “shishi-odoshi.” Wonderfully landscaped, the garden is known for its serene atmosphere, features a steam, raked sand, a spacious strolling area, manicured bushes, moss, carp ponds, streams and a unique teeter-totter bamboo device that fills with water and then drops it in a stone with a sharp crack. The device was made to scare away pesky wild boars and deer.The occasional tapping sound of “sozu” reverberates in the tranquility of the Chinese style garden, creating a refined atmosphere. Noted for the beauty of azaleas in spring and tinted foliage in autumn. Address: Monguchicho, Ichijoji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm Closed May 23 Admission: ¥500. Getting There: 10-minute walk from Ichijoji-Sagarimatsu-cho Bus Stop.

Manshu-in Temple (near Shugaku-in Imperial Villa) lies at the base of Mount Hiei. The sand and wood landscape garden incorporates the local mountains into its scheme. The home of 1,200 cultural treasures, it attracts maple-leave-viewing crowds in the autumn. Manshuin Temple Garden is a Dry garden constructed in the 17th century. The washbasin with owls engraved on all four sides is a rarity. The low balustrade on the open veranda of the Ko-shoin (small study) represents a rudder, and it will take you towards the Horai (isle of eternal youth) Stone deep inside the garden. A composition of a painting seems created as you, upon a boat, watch the Tsuru and Kame Islands upon the sea. Address: 42 Takenouchicho, Ichijoji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm Admission: ¥600. Getting There: 20-minute walk from Ichijoji-Shimizucho Bus Stop.

Ninnaji Temple Garden (two kilometers north of Myoshinji Tmepl) is a Landscape garden for viewing from within a building and for strolling laid out in the 17th century. A style of gardening reminiscent of the splendor and luxury of Genroku culture. It flourishes with viewers of the “Otafuku cherry blossoms” in mid-April Address: 33 Omuro-Ouchi, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm (–4:30pm December–February) Admission: ¥500. Getting There: Near Omuro Ninnaji Bus Stop.

Koetsuji Temple Garden (eight kilometers north of Kyoto Station) is a Tea garden with seven tea houses including Taikyo-an, reconstructed in 1915. The temple and garden were originally built as the residence of Honami Koetsu (1558-1637), a noted artist in the 17th century. This garden is famous for its attractive bamboo fences. Address: 29 Koetsujicho, Takagamine, Kita-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:00am-5:00pm Closed November 10–13 Admission: ¥300. Getting There: 3-minute walk from Genkoan-mae Bus Stop.

Kyoto Botanical Garden (Kitayama Station on Karasuma subway line) is the first large scale botanical garden built in Japan. Covering 240,000 square meters, it is home to 120,000 plants of 12,000 species.

Myoshinji Temple and Gardens

Myoshin-ji (three kilometers west-northwest of Nijo Castle, six kilometers northwest of of Kyoto Station) is a temple complex and head temple of the Rinzai Zen Buddhism school,.the largest school in Rinzai Zen with 3,400 temples throughout Japan. The grounds of the temple were formally a palace for the Emperor Hanazono, who abdicated in 1318 to become a monk and donated the palace to found the temple in 1342. The head temple was founded in 1342 by the Zen master Kanzan Egen (1277–1360), third patriarch in the influential Ōtōkan lineage. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Myoshinji Temple sprawls over a large area and features a number of sub-temples and winding paths flanked by high walls, so it is easy to become disoriented. As is usual in Japanese temple construction, the main buildings are located on the axis from the south gate, in the south-west quadrant of the complex. There is a main north–south path connecting the north gate and the south gate, starting parallel to the main buildings, then continuing north, flanked by veering slight, and ending at the north gate. There is also an east–west path leading east from the main buildings (starting in the west at Tenju-in, passing between the hattō and butsuden, then ending in the east, after a curve, at Tōrin-in). In addition to the direct north–south path, there is a longer path that proceeds east from the north gate, winds past Keishun-in, then terminates in the east–west just south of Daishin-in. In addition to these main routes, there are a number of side paths. These paths are all lined with sub-temples, generally with a single entrance. Getting There: Myōshin-ji station and Ryōan-ji station on the Randen line, near north gate, Hanazono Station on the JR Sagano Line, near the south gate

Myoshinji Keishun-in Temple Garden is a Combination of dry landscape garden, tea garden and landscape garden for strolling constructed by the famous India ink painter, Kano Motonobu, in the 17th century. Address: 11 Teranonaka-cho, Hanazono, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm (–4:30pm in winter) Admission: ¥400. Getting There: Near MyoshinjiKitamon-mae Bus Stop. (in the Myoshinji Temple compound)

Myoshinji Taizo-in Temple Garden is a Picturesque dry garden constructed by the famous India ink painter, Kano Motonobu, in the 15th century. Address: 35 Myoshinjicho, Hanazono, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm Admission: ¥500. Getting There: Near Myoshinji-mae Bus Stop. (in the Myoshinji Temple compound)

Daitokuji Temple

Shimogamo shrine
Daitokuji Temple (No. 206 bus from Kyoto Station, get off at Daitokuji-mae) is the headquarters of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism and the best place to investigate Zen Buddhism. Completed in 1319, it contains a two-story Sanmon gate designed by Kyoto's most famous architect Senno Rikyu and 24 subtemples, eight of which are open to the public. There are almost no pieces of furniture in the temple; only wall paintings, calligraphy and mats.

Every year many Europeans and Americans come here to study Zen Buddhism, and some of them even stay on and enter the monastery. The monks that live here spend their time meditating; practicing traditional Japanese arts like calligraphy; and having tea ceremonies which have reportedly been carried out here since in 12th century.

Daitokuji-Daisen-in Temple Garden is a Dry landscape garden built in the 16th century. This garden is famed as a masterpiece of gardening developed for Zen temples.When you open the sliding paper doors, you will see the garden creating a panoramic scene resembling the landscape paintings you can find on sliding partition doors or folding screens in traditional Japanese homes. It represents the mental state of a Zen Buddhist priest going through ascetic practices in a natural surrounding. Address: 54-1 Daitokujicho, Murasakino, Kita-ku, Kyoto (in the Daitokuji Temple compound) Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm (–16:30 December–February) Admission: ¥400. Getting There: Near Daitokuji-mae Bus Stop.

Daitokuji Hojo (Chief Abbot’s Chamber) Garden is a dry landscape garden constructed in the 17th century, designed by Kobori Enshu (1579–1647). The east garden depicts the image of Buddha’s disciples practicing zazen meditation. This garden is only open to persons who join the Garden Tour operated daily. (See Garden Tours in Kyoto on Page 2) Individuals must join the tour to enter. Address: 53 Daitokujicho, Murasakino, Kita-ku, Kyoto Entsuji Temple Garden is a Dry landscape garden constructed in the 17th century. The garden utilizes the distant view of Mt. Hiei for its backdrop. Address: 389 Hataedacho, Iwakura, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 10:00am-16:30 Admission: ¥500. Getting There: Near Entsuji-michi Bus Stop, or 15-minute walk from Midoroga-ike Bus Stop.

Tenryuji Temple and Garden

Tenryuji Temple (Arashiyama) was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Originally an imperial villa, where the Emperor Godaido grew up and was educated, it was established by Shogun Ashikaga Takauji in 1339 as a Zen temple and now is a popular place to view screen paintings and maple trees in the autumn.

The garden at Tenryuji is one of Japan's oldest. Designed to evoke an image of Mt. Horai in China, it blends the elegance of an imperial court garden with the austerity of a classic Zen garden and incorporates the local Kameyama and Arashiyama mountains. In the center of the garden is a large pond shaped like Chinese character for heart (“kokoro” ). In the north of the garden is a small water-less waterfall. Leading to the temple is a large bamboo grove where the famed poet Basho lived for a while in a small hut and the famous samurai film actor Denjiro Okochi had a villa.

Tenryuji Temple Garden is a Landscape garden for strolling and viewing from within a building constructed in the 14th century. The main motifs of this garden, which almost seems as though it were a landscape drawing in Indian ink, are Ryumon Falls and a stone bridge. A landscape of mountains, rivers and the ocean is presented with a pond and the above two in the center. Ryumon is a rapid current ravine which lies on the border of China’s Yungxian and Wanxian. There is a 3-tier waterfall that even fish can’t go up, but there’s a legend that if fish could go up the waterfall, they would become dragons. This represents the process of a zen priest attaining enlightenment after strict practice. The stone bridge is a symbol of the first step into the state of enlightenment. Address: Susukinobaba-cho, Saga Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:30am-6:30pm (–5:00pm October 21–March 20) Admission: ¥500. Getting There: 2-minute walk from Arashiyama Station on Keifuku Dentetsu Arashiyama Line.

Gardens in Ohara

Sanzen-in Temple (Ohara, one hour on No. 17 and 18 buses from Kyoto Station) in the opinion of many is one of the nicest temples and gardens in Kyoto. Located in the mountains some distance from urban Kyoto, it belongs to the Tendai sect of Buddhism and was founded by Saicho, the same the priest who founded Enryaku-ji.

Founded in 784, the temple is a collection of halls that contains an ancient wood statue of the Amida Nyroai Buddha, sliding panel paintings and statues of the Ryowaki samurai that have been designated as nation treasures. In the main altar room is a miniature replica of the Imperial Palace. The rooms reserved for the emperor are identifiable by the raised floors and sliding wall panels. The oldest structure, Ojo Gokuraku-in Hall, was established in 985 and was only rebuilt once, in 1143. The moss-covered gardens are very beautiful, exhilarating and dignified. Climbing up a slope of "Fish Mountain," the main garden is surrounded by old cedars and contains the famous "Soundless Waterfall," which sounds like any other waterfall.

Yusei-en garden next to the main hall is a moss garden with tall cedars and a pond. The Shukeki-en Garden next to the reception hall was created by a famous tea ceremony master. In the June rainy season thousands of hydrangea bushes bloom. Websites: My Kind of Kyoto ; Japan Guide

Gardens in South Kyoto

Jonangu Shrine Garden has five different types of gardens representing the respective styles of the Spring, Heian, Muromachi, Momoyama and Jonan Rikyu. Address: 7 Toba Rikyucho, Nakajima, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-4:30pm Admission: ¥600. Getting There: Near Jonangu Bus Stop. 15-minute walk from Takeda Station on Subway Karasuma Line or Kintetsu Line.

Kajuji Temple Garden (seven kilometers southeast of Kyoto) is a Strolling garden and also a dry landscape garden in front of the study hall. The stroll-type garden was originally built in the 10th century. Address: Niodocho, Kanshuji, Yamashina-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-4:00pm Admission: ¥400. Getting There: 20 minutes by bus to Kajuji Bus Stop from Yamashina Station (next to Kyoto Station) on Subway Ono Station and 6-minute walk.

Daigoji (on Mt. Daigo) has been designated a World Heritage Site. Original built in A.D. 874, it was the 11th stop on a pilgrimages route of 33 temples in western Japan dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon. The temple grounds cover 6.6 million square meters. Yakishido hall, Sanbio hall and Kondo hall have been designated national treasures. The pagoda is the oldest-surviving wooden structure Toyotomi Hideyoshi hosted a cherry-viewing party here at Sanbion garden, which has been designated by the government as a place of scenic beauty. In August 2008 the temple’s Junteo Kannondo hall was destroyed by a fire.

Daigoji Samboin Temple Garden is a Landscape garden for viewing from within a building, laid out in the 16th century. It is one of the finest examples showing the legendary fortuitous crane, tortoise and isle of eternal youth using stones and spring ponds of the type in the Momoyama Period. Address: 22 Higashi-ojicho, Daigo, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm (–16:00 1st Sunday of December–February) Admission: ¥600. Getting There: 10-minute walk from Subway Daigo Station on Tozai Line.

Byodoin Temple

Byodoin Temple (in Uji) is one the last surviving structures from Heian period (704-1185). Built in 1052 as a villa for Kyoto nobleman, who may been the inspiration for the hero Genji, it contains the famous Phoenix Hall, with its gracefully upswept eaves and two bronze phoenixes on the gables of the main roof.

Inspired by the Chinese version of the mythological bird, a protector Buddha, the Phoenix Hall of Byodion temple is pictured on the ¥10 coin and was inspiration for the some buildings by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is beautifully situated in front of a pond and contains a famous 11th century statue of Amida and the 52 Bodhisattvas.

Byodoin Temple
Byodoin Temple contains perhaps the best remaining example if a pleasure boat style garden. The temple was designated a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. The nearby Homotsukan Treasure House contains the original temple bell, phoenix roof adornments and door paintings.

Christal Whelan wrote in Daily Yomiuri: Byodoin temple's graceful Phoenix Hall (depicted on the back of the 10 yen coin) in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, is located in one of the few gardens remaining in a style that dates back to the A.D. 6th century. It is on the artificial island of Nakajima, which was built up and broadened with stones from a "seed" islet in the midst of a mirror-like pond. The Hall is meant to represent Amitabha Buddha's palace in the Western Paradise as described in the Infinite Life Sutra. Symbolic islands such as this one are visual aids for a living faith and serve to draw the remote near and allow the viewer to become more intimate with the transcendent.

Byodoin Temple Garden was originally a pond garden for boating laid out in the 11th century. The construction of the temple and its garden was intended to recreate the Buddhist paradise in this world. Address: 116, Uji Renge, Uji-city, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:30am-6:30pm Admission: ¥600 (¥300 during the Phoenix Hall repair until March 31 2014) Getting There: 30 min. by train from Keihan-Sanjo to Uji on Keihan-Uji Line, or 20 min. by train from Kyoto Station to Uji Station on JR Nara Line.

Image Sources: 1) 2) 7) Ray Kinnane 3) Wikipedia 4) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 5) Kyoto Prefecture site 6) 8) 10) 11) Kyoto Visitors site 9) Aomolife

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization),, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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