Jun. 02, 2017 UPDATE
4 Ways To Enjoy Gardens In Kyoto
Part 1

Walk Through Pond Gardens

Walk inside of a large garden and take your time strolling around beautifully maintained paths. Look for Chisen Kaiyu-shiki gardens, a term used for strolling garden with pond. Chisen Kaiyu-shiki gardens are designed for strolling purposes, and they often feature small bridges and stone lanterns. Look closely for different elements in a garden as you walk through it. Japanese gardens generally reflect pure natural landscapes such as mountains, hills, and lakes. Replicating those shapes into more compact size is a method used in construction of many Japanese gardens.

One of the earliest styles of gardens is labeled as Gokuraku-jodo garden, exhibiting the paradise of Amida Buddha. Because gardens have been kept and maintained for generations, they still remain to this day. Paradise gardens of Gokuraku-jodo style often exhibit large ponds and lotus flowers. Started developing over 1000 years ago, some elements of Gokuraku-jodo gardens remain in Kyoto, one great example is Byodo-in Temple located in Uji area.
Byodo-in Temple (founded in 1052)
Take a look at your 10 yen coin when you get a chance. You will see the Phoenix Hall from Byodo-in illustrated on it. Enjoy walking around a sizeable pond with a reflection of the hall. Amazingly, a small replica of the same structure is built in 1969 on island of Oahu, Hawaii. You can say that this garden is a great representation of Gokuraku-jodo style epitomizing the elegance of pure paradise land of Buddhism, something that was very much desired by the nobles of Heian period. It is a must-visit temple when you are in Uji area.
Kaju-ji Temple (founded in 900)
Founded by Emperor Daigo, this temple was destroyed and rebuilt throughout history. The garden is the only thing remained all throughout the years, for about more than 1000 years. It is said that Kaju-ji is a temple with most water birds in Kyoto. Here you can find cherry blossoms and water lilies in early April, Iris in May, and maple leaves turning color in November. Also note that this garden is registered as one of city’s scenic beauties. Walk around the pond and look for bountiful wildlife like water birds, koi fish, and turtles.
Ninna-ji Temple (founded in 888)
Beautiful garden named Hokutei, will welcome you for a stroll around the temple with blooming cherry blossom trees in spring and color changing leaves in autumn. Take a look at the 5-story pagoda; you will see very picturesque sceneries as you walk in this beautiful temple. It is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Sanzezn-in Temple (founded in 804)
Located in the rural area of Ohara, Sanzen-in Temple includes beautiful gardens with moss bedding, various tall trees, and flowering plants. Look for the statues in the moss as you stroll the garden. There are various plants and trees in the premises, and spots where you can sit-down and take a break.
Heian Jingu Shrine (founded in 1895)
The garden at Heian Jingu Shrine was designed by a well appraised gardener, Ogawa Jihei. Walk on the Garyu-kyo, the stepping stones that portray a dragon that crosses the pond. Look at your reflection in the pond as if you are on the dragon crossing the water. This garden is separated into 4 parts (north, south, east, and west) and is a great representation of the Meiji period.
Kodai-ji Temple (founded in 1606)
Go into the wonderful Chisen Kaiyu-shiki garden, a strolling garden with a pond. Take a look at the garden with the mountains in the east side. You will go through the dry stone garden, pond garden, and bamboo grove as you walk through this temple. Every season, they offer special night time illumination where you can enjoy walking around the garden at night. Check their website for the special night opening schedule.

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