Keihanshin (京阪神) Episode 17: Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺)

After visiting the Kinkakuji, I took the bus heading south to another UNESCO World Heritage — Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺), which literally means The Temple of The Dragon at Peace. The Japanese Rock Garden, or Kare-sanshui (枯山水), is considered the finest and best Zen garden in Japan.

A bamboo water pipe appear out of no where from the bush. I can’t help to use the water to wash my hand and my face. It’s cooling and refreshing.

The stone-staircase leading to the main hall. The staircase is made up of different sizes of stone piled up one after another side by side. There is an unity in this arrangement.

Upon entering the main hall, you need to take off your shoe. The air in the main hall is full of a sense of Zen, the tranquility is unexplainable. Walking over the wooden floor is like walking on the marble floor, it’s cooling but with more human touch than the hard and concrete marble floor.

There are a lot of people standing at the platform as if there is a splendid show going on. What are they looking at?

This is where the reason why Ryoanji Temple is famous for. The Karesanshui, or Zen Garden, consists of only rocks and sands. They are arranged in different patterns to imitate the essence of nature to serve an aid to meditation about the meaning of life. The Karesanshui in Ryoanji is believed to be built in 15th century.

The wall surrounding the Karesanshui is called “Oil earth wall” which is made of loam mixed rapeseed oil so as to protect it from the garden’s white sand. The wall is very durable and able to withstand years of exposure and changes of climate.

The rocks are usually considered as popular mountain in Japan, the moss as land and the sand as sea.

There is something very interesting about this garden. There are all together 15 stones in the garden. However, regardless of where you look at it, you could only count 14 stones, which means there is always a blind spot which block your sight from the stone. Some researcher from oversea even came over to study the layout of the garden and come out with some form or mathematical analysis!

There is a miniature display at the main hall.

At the back of the main hall, is another famous wash basin called Tsukubai (蹲). There are 4 Kanji characters inscribed on the surface of the stone, and a squarish water trough at the center. The 4 characters are 吾唯知足, which utilize the squarish water trough to construct the four characters in full. The inscription, 吾唯知足, means “I learn only to be contended”. He who learns only to be contended is spiritually rich, while the one who does not learn to be contended is spiritually poor even if he is materially rich. The concept is an important one in Zen spirit.

The Tsubakai is said to have been contributed by Mitsukuni Mito, a feudal lord and the compiler of the great history of Japan known as “Dai-Nippon-Shi” (大日本史), the Great History of Japan.

The giant bell is to commemorate 500 years of establishment of the temple.

While most of the people after completed their visit to the Karesanshui, they will head straight to the exit. In fact, there is actually a restaurant selling vegetarian food near the way towards exit.

The restaurant is of traditional Japanese style. Customers can sit on the tatami floor having the food, facing the Japanese garden.

Right here you can order the Seven Herb Tofu, a clay pot with “Momen Tofu” topped with the aromatic seven herbs. It is pure vegetarian and it’s called Shojin Ryori (精進料理), is actually injected Zen spirit into cuisine. The cooking made use of tofu and vegetable and basically the soup is tasteless. The Shojin Ryori was originally prepared for monks, and the cuisine served different purpose other than just filling up your stomach.

  • Reflect the effort that bring us food
  • Reflect our imperfection as we received the meal
  • Reflect on mindfulness to be free from attachment, anger and ignorance
  • Reflect on taking this food as a medicine to sustain good health
  • Reflect on the fulfillment of our practice as we accept the offerings

I chose a cheaper one, with lesser ingredients, the Soup Tofu.

The soup come with “Momen tofu”, cabbages, spring onion,carrots, mushrooms. The soup taste natural without artificial coloring and flavouring. The tofu is smooth and the rest of the ingredients are fresh and crunchy.

The dish also come with soya sauce and tea. Everything is taken from nature, presented in their own nature and having in front of a Japanese greenery garden.  Burger, fries, go away.


How to get there: Nearest subway Ryoanji station, from there walk 12 min to Ryoanji.

Hours: 8:00 to 17:00 (8:30 to 16:30 from December through February)

Admission: 500 Yen


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