Top 5 Gardens in Kyoto

A visit to Kyoto is not complete without spending some time in one of the city’s traditional gardens. Here are five that will not disappoint.

Top 5 Gardens in Kyoto
  • In traditional and contemporary Japan, the creation of gardens is an artform as esteemed as any other. Aside from the sheer beauty of the grounds, the garden becomes a physical manifestation of local esthetics, traditions, philosophy, and cosmology, as well as a showcase of the talents of the creator. Whether you are an expert, fully versed in the symbology and horticulture involved, or simply hoping for a relaxing stroll, Kyoto is home to many of the country’s finest gardens.

  • Ryoan-ji

    Ryoan-ji

    Ryoan-ji

    The temple itself is stunning a spacious former aristocratic villa, converted to a new use and the park beyond the main buildings of the temple is a tranquil oasis of traditional esthetics. The temple’s outer park is a fine place for a stroll no matter what the season.

    Ryoan-ji

    Ryoan-ji

    Perhaps overshadowing both the temple’s structure and its garden, true lure of Ryoan-ji is the Zen garden, a dry landscape or karesansui garden. Viewed from the porch of the hojo, the head priest’s residence, the garden is famous for carrying the artform to its conclusion: unlike previous dry landscape gardens that were meant to represent nature, the garden at Ryoan-ji evokes it through abstraction. A stunning work of art and a place of meditation, the garden at Ryoan-ji is truly unique.

  • Kyoto Imperial Palace Park

    Kyoto Imperial Palace Park

    Kyoto Imperial Palace Park

    Gardens fit for an emperor, the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park are also a welcoming respite from the tourist track. Usually less congested than the grounds of the palace itself, the Palace Park is popular with locals who come to stroll or jog, and to enjoy the cherry blossoms during hanami season. The Imperial Palace’s other main garden, Sento Gosho, is perhaps more stately and refined but it remains closed to lone strollers (a reservation with a tour group is required), making Imperial Palace Park a fine alternative.

  • Tenryu-ji

    Tenryu-ji

    Tenryu-ji

    After wandering through the breathtaking architecture of this Zen temple, take a break in the garden, which dates to 14th century when the grounds housed an imperial villa. The original design is credited to Zen monk and garden designer, Muso Soseki. Although, like all of Muso’s gardens, the intervening centuries have seen generations of gardeners put their own esthetic stamp on the place, the walk around the Sogen Pond evokes a feeling of stepping back in time. The view from the hojo that faces the garden has for centuries been renowned as of the finest in Kyoto.

  • Okochi Sanso

    Okochi Sanso

    Okochi Sanso

    Okochi Denjiro was a star of period dramas and a man that appreciated the finer things in life. His villa in northwest Kyoto was opened to the public following his death in 1962. Admission is 1000 yen but grants access to the sprawling estate and its main buildings, as well as a complimentary cup of tea and a sweet in the tea house which looks out on a bamboo grove. The villa’s gardens intended to show their charms in all four seasons. Whether arriving in the mild winter or high summer, the gardens are worth the trip.

  • Gio-ji Moss Garden

    Gio-ji Moss Garden

    Gio-ji Moss Garden

    A word like “otherworldly” can far too easily be deployed hyperbolically attached to Gio-ji and its Moss Garden, it seems accurate: the carpets of moss seem to be an organic version of the abstract dry Zen garden, standing in sharp contrast with the surrounding vegetation and trees. Still far enough off the beaten track, Gio-ji retains its sense of mystical peace.

    Ryoanji Temple
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Ukyou-ku Ryouanji Otoritoshita 13
    Phone
    0754632216
    Kyoto Gyoen National Garden
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Kamigyou-ku Kyoutogyoen 3
    Phone
    0752116348
    Tenryu-ji Temple
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Ukyou-ku Sagatenryujisusukinobabachou 68
    Phone
    0758811235
    Okochi Sanso Gardens
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Ukyou-ku Sagaogurayama Tabuchi Yamachi 8
    Phone
    0758722233
  • Giouji Temple
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Ukyou-ku Sagatorimotokozakachou 32
    Phone
    0758613574
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