Kyoto’s Gardens

Most of Kyoto’s Japanese gardens can be found inside temples, and with so many temples, you can be sure there are a lot of amazing gardens around. Indeed, Kyoto has probably the highest concentration of beautiful gardens in all of Japan. Every type of Japanese garden is represented in Kyoto, from austere “Karesansui” (“Zen gardens”) to flamboyant stroll gardens of the Shoguns and Emperors.  You’ll also see a lot of small wonders, the “Tsuboniwa” or courtyard gardens inside restaurants, shops, private houses, etc.

Here is a small list of suggestions of visits.  But there are many, many more to see — Kyoto is a garden lover’s paradise. 

Hanami Party in Maruyama Koen

Hanami (“flower viewing”) is the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. This often involves a picnic party to enjoy the cherry blossoms as well as food and drinks. People have a Hanami party with friends, family or colleagues . . .

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Unryû-In Temple Light Up

The Unryû-In Temple is a Buddhist sub-temple of the large Sennyûji Temple. The season night illumination has just started and we enjoyed our time visiting the gardens of this wonderful little temple.

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Light-Ups in Autumn

Enjoy the beautiful Autumn foliage by taking advantage of the evening opening and illumination of these gardens. Here is a list of some of this year’s light ups around Kyoto, together with the dates and opening time.

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Last flower viewing of 2016

As this year’s Hanami season comes to an end, the last place to visit around Kyoto is often the Ninna-Ji Temple (仁和寺). Located in the North West part of town, this temple is quite famous for its Omuro cherry trees, ancient, dwarf, late-flowering trees.

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Hogon-In Temple & Garden

Arguably the most beautiful garden in the Arashiyama area, Hogon-In Temple is a must-see for every tourist visiting the area. Whether you see the plush greens in the spring or the vibrant reds in the fall, Hogon-In Temple will leave you with some of the most vivid memories from Kyoto.

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Sanzen-In Temple, Ohara

Sanzen-In is a temple of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism and was founded by the revered monk Saicho who introduced Tendai Buddhism to Japan in 804. Sanzen-In Temple is a monzeki temple, one of only a few temples whose head priests used to be members of the imperial family.

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Zuishin-In Temple

This small quiet temple is of a classic style and is a pleasant stop after visiting the nearby Daigo-Ji. We visited in the Fall and the garden was specially beautiful. And I’ve read that the large garden of small plum trees, the “Ono garden” (小野梅庭) is very beautiful if you pick the right time in March to visit it.

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Okochi-Sanso Villa

Okochi-Sanso Villa probably rivals the city’s imperial villas, and you don’t need a reservation to visit. It took us a long time to get to visit the place, but we’re happy we finally did. It’s a gem!

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Kodai-Ji Temple Light-Up

Kodai-ji Temple, located between Kiyomizu Temple and the Maruyama Park, hosts one of the beautiful and fun nighttime illuminations held at the temple in the spring and fall. It is not a mere light-up, but a real Sound and Light show! Usually very crowded, but well worth it!

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Kodai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple is located between the Yasaka no To Pagoda, and the Maruyama Park. It is one of the finest temples in the Southern Higashiyama Area. its beautiful garden is a designated national historic and famous scenic place. Specially nice during light-ups!

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Toji Temple

Toji Temple is not just this beautiful five stories Pagoda, the largest in Japan, that has become a symbol of Kyoto. There is much more to this temple than that. It houses a beautiful collection of statues and paintings, gorgeous garden, one of the oldest and largest market in Kyoto…

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Hirano Jinja, a Favorite Hanami Spot

Hirano Jinja (Shrine) is a very old Shinto shrine — established in the year 794. It is among the most popular spots in Kyoto among Japanese people for its gardens and numerous cherry trees, for viewing the flowers, singing and drinking.

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Light Show at the Shoren-In Temple

Shoren-In is certainly not one of the main temples around, but it really is a very nice one and has undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in Kyoto. This is not a mere lighting up of the garden, but it is an actual light show.

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Plum blossoms at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

While most people think “Cherry Blossom” when considering the Hanami season, it actually starts with the plum blossoms around the end of February. This is, a few weeks before the cherry blossoms, the actual beginning of spring in Kyoto.

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Tenryu-Ji Zen Temple

Tenryu-ji (天龍寺) is located in Arashiyama, a scenic area at the foot of the mountains on the western outskirts of Kyoto. It is the main Temple of the area and features one of the finest garden and pond in Kyoto.

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Ninna-ji Temple

Ninna-ji (仁和寺) is the head temple of the Omuro school of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. It is located in western Kyoto, near Ryoanji and Kinkakuji. We usually visit all three temples on the same day.

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Ryōan-ji, the Zen Rock Garden

The Ryōan-ji (龍安寺) garden is considered one of the (if not the) finest surviving examples of kare-sansui (“dry landscape”), a refined type of Japanese Zen temple garden design generally featuring distinctive larger rock formations . . .

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Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺) aka the Silver Pavilion, is a Zen temple located at the Northern part of Kyoto’s eastern mountains (Higashiyama). I found the place is particularly beautiful in Autumn, but it is also a delight at other seasons.

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Nijo Castle, Shogun Residence

Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of theEdo Period (1603-1867). After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while

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Tofuku-Ji Temple, Kyoto

Tofukuji (東福寺) is a large Zen temple located around 10-15 minutes away from the house. It is particularly famous for its spectacular autumn colors and people come from all over Japan to visit Tofukuji in Autumn.

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