Location: 13 Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8001, Japan
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 8:00am to 5:00pm
Admission Fee: 500 yen
Official Website: www.ryoanji.co.jp
Demystifying the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto 龍安寺
For art enthusiasts, the Ryoanji Temple will be a sight to behold. It is less frequented by travellers, although the Temple of the Dragon at Peace is another UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Regardless, visiting Ryoanji becomes some sort of art pilgrimage.
Getting to Ryoanji can be a challenge, and for those who don’t like to walk, it can become a frustration to ride the bus. I highly recommend to rent a pocket Wi-Fi when in Japan, and navigating Kyoto is no exception to this. But Ryoanji Temple is best reached as a stopover on your way to Kinkakuji from Arashiyama Bamboo Groves.
Serenity surrounds Ryoanji Temple and anyone who feels tired will feel their exhaustion wane. That was what I felt when I first stepped inside the temple, barefooted (as shoes aren’t allowed inside the premises). I was tired after the Fushimi Inari hike and walking along the rivers of Arashiyama. There’s a difference between being still and silent, and it was only inside Ryoan-ji Temple that everyone felt compelled to be still.
What made Ryoanji Temple even more demystifying were the 15 stones that were carefully place on gravel sand, the completeness of which won’t be seen from any angle. That being said, any angle you looked at it, you would only see 14 stones. The shape of the famous rock garden would also appear to be straight, but in fact, it is slightly tilted down towards the Southeast corner. The art is a perfect example of attaining abstract concept, the meaning of the rock garden open for any interpretation to onlookers.
Like the mysterious optical illusion, it is also unknown who built it during the Muromachi period between 14th and 16th century. It makes the Ryoan-ji Temple even more alluring, the carvings at the back of the rock a greater mystery than the design of the garden itself.
I am not one who appreciates art, but the Ryoan-ji Temple’s mellow atmosphere captivates my interest. Only such design is capable of captivating the most rowdy tourists into becoming spectators, and be contented with simply sitting down bamboo floors and resting.
One charming old lady is selling authentic Kyoto tea beside Ryoan-ji and I encourage anyone to try it. This tea is a mixture of dried green perilla, plums, seaweeds and green tea, which is unlike any other tea I have tried. It almost tastes like a clear broth and would devoid you of the traditional perception of tea.
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Navigation and Map: How to Get to Ryoanji Temple
To get to Ryoanji Temple, it is best to stop by here from Arashiyama to Kinkakuji, as it is in the middle of these two well-known destinations. From the Saga Arashiyama Station, ride the JR San-In Line towards Kyoto Station and get off at Emmachi Station. Take Kyoto Bus 59 towards Ryoanji-mae Stop.