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Ryoanji is a Zen temple located in Kyoto founded by warlord Hosokawa Katsumoto in 1450. Today, Ryoanji Temple is best known for its mysterious rock garden. The rock garden, also referred to as the zen garden, is a 248 square meter garden with fifteen rocks placed in a specific matter. Using mainly just rocks and stones, the garden features 15 stones that cannot all be seen from the same angle. From any point, only 14 stones are view-able in the garden (unless you look directly overhead). These larger rocks are surrounded by white gravel, which the temple's monks rake each day. The rock garden of Ryoanji is quite mysterious as the meaning of the garden, the origin of the garden's creation, and the founder are all unknown. Though there have been speculations regarding the founder, no concrete evidence has been found. Therefore, everyone has their own interpretation of the garden and it's meaning.
The rock garden isn't the only charm Ryoanji has to offer. The entrance to the temple is the former kitchen and colonnade. Upon entering the temple, be sure to wash your hands in the Tsukuba (bowl to cleanse the hands before prayers/tea ceremonies) which is engraved in stone to say:
I am self-knowledgeable. You can purchase a good luck charm that looks like the bowl from the temple after a quick prayer on the temple grounds.
Ryoanji's popularity grew and grew, especially after 1975 when Queen Elizabeth II visited Ryoanji. With the growing popularity for zen, the temple was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Explore the mysterious but beautiful rock garden during your time in Kyoto after one of our Cherry Blossom Japan tours or Highlights tours!