Continuing my Kyoto temple tour, here a few more sites visited on my recent trip to Japan. Unlike the Higashiyama district, these are a little further from the city center, but still easily reached via public transport or a short cab ride.
This iconic temple may well be the most photographed building in Kyoto (perhaps all of Japan) and it’s easy to see why. The Golden Pavilion, the constantly changing seasonal surroundings, and the mirror-like reflection in the pond make for a picture-perfect view. The temple itself is off-limits to visitors but the surrounding gardens are open to the public and equally impressive.
Ginkaku-Ji Temple, or “Silver Pavilion” was modeled after Kinkaku-Ji and supposed to be covered in reflective silver but was never completed. Its moss gardens and carefully manicured sand garden are also major attractions; the meticulously maintained large sand mound is said to represent Mt. Fuji. The gardens extend to the side of the hill where there is a nice view of the surrounding areas.
About a 20-minute walk from the Golden Pavilion, Ryoan-Ji Temple is famous for the surrounding gardens, and in particular its Zen rock garden. The garden is considered to be the finest example of “dry landscape” arrangement of rocks and moss among a bed of smooth white pebbles. The pebbles are raked every day by the monks, and the patterns are meant to facilitate meditation. There are fifteen rocks of varying sizes, carefully arranged into five groups; and at any angle you are only able to see fourteen of the stones (attaining enlightenment will let you see the fifteenth stone). The garden is meant to be viewed while seated on the veranda, and is open to interpretation as to what the scene represents.
The surrounding temple gardens are great for contemplative strolls. The site is less popular with overseas tourists (maybe because it is less ‘flashy’ than the grand temples of Kyoto) but a favorite among local Japanese visitors.