Crowds gather at Ryoan-ji to look out in contemplation over the rock garden. The best views are from the Hojo, the head monks’ residence, after which you can peek into the tatami (traditional Japanese-style rooms) and kuri (the temple kitchen). Leave yourself plenty of time to stroll around the wooded pathways, explore the pretty gardens and pond, and enjoy views of the temple from the outside. Although it’s possible to visit independently, exploring with a guide offers insight into the temple’s unique architecture and spiritual heritage, belonging to the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.
Things to know before you go
- Ryoan-ji Temple is one of Kyoto’s most visited attractions and a must for history buffs and first-time visitors.
- There is an admission fee to visit the temple grounds.
- The temple has a gift shop and a traditional Japanese tofu restaurant.
- The temple and gardens are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.
How to get there
Ryoan-ji Temple is located four miles (seven kilometers) northwest of downtown Kyoto. Regular JR buses run directly from Kyoto Station to Ryoan-ji and take about 30 minutes. The closest train station is Ryoanji-michi Station (Keifuku Kitano line), a 10-minute walk from the temple.
When to get there
The temple is open daily, although opening times vary throughout the year. It can get extremely busy, especially in peak season, so aim to arrive at opening time to avoid the crowds and opt for a weekday visit if possible. Some of the most stunning views are during the spring and autumn, when the cherry blossoms and fall foliage add a pop of color to the scene.
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