Zen Gardens – Pockets of Tranquility

Jun 8th, 2009 | By | Category: Kyoto, Parks, Gardens & Nature

The beauty and tranquility of a well designed karesansui or dry garden is often spoken of but seldom experienced.  Take some time to visit one in person or simply meditate for a moment upon the images below from some of Japan’s most famous Zen gardens.

Banryutei Rock Garden

Banryutei Rock Garden Zen Garden Japan

Image Credit: Flickr, Zen garden / Koya San

The Banryutei Rock Garden (pictured above) is one of the largest gardens of its kind in Japan.  Located within the precincts of the  Koyasan Kongobuji in Wakayama prefecture (part of the Kansai Region of Japan) the garden encompasses more that 2,300 square meters of raked sand and strategically placed rocks that when viewed from a certain angle appear to be two dragons flying amongst the clouds.

Visit Welcome to Koyasan for information on the sights of the area as well as walking and audio guides.

Ginshadan – The Sea of Silver Sand

Ginshadan Zen Garden Japan

Image Credit: Flickr, Zen Garden

Located in front of the Abbots quarters (hojo) on the grounds of Ginkakuji Temple in Kyoto  is an excellent example of a karesansui garden (dry garden) known as Ginshadan or the Sea of Silver Sand.  The Ginshandan consists of a two foot platform of sand that covers 0.71 hectares (1.75 acres) and is said to represent the sea.

Kogetsudai – The Moon Viewing Platform

Image Credit: Flickr, Grounds of Kinkaku-ji

The distinctive cone shaped mound pictured below is also located on the grounds of Ginkakuji Temple in Kyoto.  It reflects the light of the moon in the evenings and was meant to sit on while waiting for the moon to rise from the Higashiyama mountains.

Ryoan-ji Temple Rock Garden

Ryoan-ji Temple Rock Garden Zen Garden Japan

Image Credit:  Flickr, Ryouanji Stones (竜安寺の石)

One of the most celebrated rock gardens in Japan, it is relatively small with only fifteen stones sitting within a seas of pristinely rake white sand.  Located in the grounds of the Ryoan-ji Temple (also in Kyoto) the garden is enclosed by earthen walls and it is impossible to see all of the fifteen stones from any vantage point.


Hashin-tei Zen Garden Japan

Image Credit:  Flickr, The zen rock garden at Kodai-ji

Originally a pond garden, Hashin-tei was redesigned as a karesansui dry garden and the undulating border of moss and stone was once its shoreline.  This garden is also located in Kyoto on the grounds of the Kodai-ji Temple.

Myoshin-ji Temple Gardens

Myoshin-ji Temple Gardens Zen Rock Garden Japan

Image Credit: Flickr, black sand and pink sakura

Myoshin-ji Temple itself and three other temples in Kyoto (Taizo-in Temple, Keishun-in Temple & Daishin-in Temple) are home to a number of beautiful Zen gardens that are well know throughout Japan.  The Taizo-in Temple is well known for features such as the karetaki (dry waterfall), horai-san (Sacred mountain), kamejima (island shaped like a turtle) and an ishibashi(stone bridge).

Rocks, raked sand and tranquility – it’s a combination that is well known and recognized worldwide as a Zen Garden.

“The best gardens in Japan incorporate aesthetics that are contradictory in nature but somehow complement each other when employed by a skillful designer”

The Art of The Japanese Garden offers further insight into the design features and qualities deemed essential in a well designed garden.  Be sure to include a visit to one or two gardens of different styles when you plan any trip to Japan – you won’t regret it!

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  1. Simply fabulous art and landscape

    Wonderful looking gardens!

  2. Amazing pics. Boy do I need a nature trip.

  3. The precision of those gardens is amazing.

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