Zen Buddhism has an ascetic image, but at the same time there is an air of mystery around it. What better place to try to get to know more about Zen than the historic capital of Japan, Kyoto? Attaining satori, enlightenment while traveling in Kyoto might be a bit difficult, but at least you can see some incredibly beautiful temples.
There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen.
1. Kennin-ji Temple
Kennin-ji Temple is most famous for its twin dragons. The huge black dragons on the ceiling look almost to be alive, but Kennin-ji has more to offer than just the dragons and convenient access on Hanamikoji Street: they have 16 ceramic figures of famous Buddhist saints for you to see. Plus their goshuincho temple stamp book is rather cool; it has a dragon on its cover!
2. Nanzen-ji Temple
Nanzen-ji Temple area is just huge, and there is really a lot to see, the temple area having many sub-temples plus of course the famous Sanmon gate. Nanzen-ji is a popular tourist destination, but if you go into the gardens or to the temples around the main one there won’t be so many people and you can have a quiet moment for yourself, and contemplate in peace.
3. Tofuku-ji Temple
Like many of the Zen temples in Kyoto, Tofuku-ji Temple is also the head of its own sect, the Tofuku-ji school of the Rinzai sect. Interestingly the name Tofuku-ji is a combination of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji temples in Nara. But this temple has to be most famous for its rock gardens that surround the Hojo, the abbot’s hall, which are just spectacular. Also, don’t forget Tofuku-ji if you are going to Kyoto during the autumn leaves season; the views are just spectacular!
4. Tenryu-ji Temple
Tenryu-ji Temple in Arashiyama is a Zen temple not only famous for its rock garden, but also the garden as a whole, especially the way the garden beautifully uses the mountains surrounding the temple as a part of the garden design, a concept in Japanese known as shakkei. This also means that the garden designed to be enjoyed every season of the year, so every time you go you are going to get to see a different view of the garden.
5. Ryoan-ji Temple
Last but not least we have Ryoan-ji Temple, the temple that makes you think with its garden. There are four mysteries that nobody knows the answer for: Who built the garden? What do the 15 rocks of the rock garden represent? The optical illusion that makes the garden seem to have more depth than it does; and the earthen wall made out of a mix of clay and rapeseed oil that has survived the test of time. This temple is a great end on our series of the five life-changing Zen temples, as it has a rock garden, a beautiful Hojo abbot’s hall, and even a restaurant offering Buddhist cuisine.
|Sampo[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]||STAFF DETAIL|