Ryoan-ji is a Zen temple and home to one of the world’s most famous rock gardens. Originally a villa belonging to the Fujiwara clan in the Heian Period, it was converted into a Buddhist temple in 1450 and the pond, which still exists today, was also installed.
The rock garden itself is a mystery. No one knows when it was made, who made it, or what its purpose was. It’s 25 by 10 meters large with 15 differently sized stones arranged in five groups on top of moss islands surrounded by white pebbles. It’s meant to be viewed while sitting. While gazing upon it, only fourteen of the fifteen stones can be viewed at once. It’s traditionally said that one can only see all fifteen stones once one has attained enlightenment.
It is also home “Seven Imperial Tombs” and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple is located within a sprawling natural garden. You can pass the time exploring its various paths and gazing out on the lake, then enjoy some yudofu, one of Kyoto’s specialty foods, at a small cafe in the garden.