Heritage Tourism Research Project

Ryoanji Temple

by Hanh Nguyen

Ryoan-ji temple is located in the Northwest of Kyoto, also called as “The temple of the Dragon at peace”. Ryoan-ji becomes one of 10 best places to visit in Kyoto because of its Rock Garden, the finest rock garden of the world.

I visited Ryoan-ji on a typical autumn day in October, when the weather was favorable. The sky was clear and blue, with blazing sunshine. Every sunlight ray was trying to go through the shady tree branches on the way to the temple. The good weather, the great atmosphere here made me feel fresh, eager, comfortable and peaceful; exactly what the name of the temple tells me.

At the Temple

Visitors here are not as crowded, noisy and rush as visitors to the Golden temple, which I had just visited before. They seemed to have the gentler, more relaxed and calmer manners. They looked as if they were enjoying the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere.

When searching for more information about Ryoan-ji, I heard that visitor to the temple need to have some certain knowledge with the view to recognizing and understanding all values of this attraction. This was right to me. At my first time to Ryoan-ji, the temple did make me say “wow” due to its natural, ancient beauty, its unique Rock Garden, which I have never seen in Vietnam before. However, the impression was not too much. Only until after the visit, when I study more, did the special features and the secret values of the temple come back to my mind and become the unforgettable memories.

The Rock Garden in Ryoan-ji still bears the common features of the typical Japanese Zen garden. Its specialty is that the garden is arranged so that from any angle, at least one stone is hidden. People say that only when you gain the enlightenment, can you see all fifteen stones.

Rock Garden

In the temple you can find a unique basin, which Kanji learners may be interested in. On the basin lay 4 Kanji characters. Reading these four characters together, you will make a nonsense sentence. However, an imaginative enough Kanji learner may find that when combining each character with the square in the middle, he can make a meaningful phrase. It means that “I know what I have is all I need”. This is about what Buddhism teaches people.

There is also a tofu restaurant in the campus of the temple. You can observe the dreamlike beauty of the lake beside the restaurant while you are eating tofu.

In my next trip to Japan, I really want to come back to Ryoan-ji temple.