Ryoan-ji Temple, inscribed as a World Heritage Property, is one of the places Kyoto is most proud of. Here, in the rock garden, perhaps the most famous part of the temple, the colors of winter are displayed, bringing to mind the line from the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, “In winter, it is the early mornings that are most beautiful.” Here, amid the quiet, tense air of winter, sitting and gazing at the temple garden, time just seems to slip away.
The garden is layed out in the karesansui style: lines are drawn in the dry sand around the rocks with a bamboo rake, representing the flow of water, while the rocks themselves represent birds on the "water" in the garden. In 1975, when Queen Elizabeth visited the garden, she praised it highly. Accordingly, the phrase "rock garden" became known worldwide. Now, many tourists from overseas, as well as Japan, come to Ryoan-ji Temple just to see this famous garden.
Although Ryoan-ji Temple is known principally as “the rock garden temple," there is more to it than that. For example, there are several items that are historically significant, such as a tsukubai stone water basin that is said to have been a gift to the temple by the historical figure Mito Komon and his retainers, and the oldest wabisuke tsubaki (camellia plant) in Japan. In addition, there is the Kyoyochi Pond, that forms the basis of a strolling garden in the temple grounds: in the past, this pond was famous as a spot to view mandarin ducks - more popular than the rock garden, actually - and today it is still a place of scenic beauty. So here at Ryoan-ji Temple, you can take your pick and enjoy yourself either by steeping yourself in the monochrome world of stones and sand at the rock garden, or take a walk around the Kyoyochi Pond to enjoy the seasonal landscape.