This is where you can see various zen gardens!

Zen garden, Japanese GardenReal Zen Garden

A temple, Ryoanji (as shown on the top image) in Kyoto is the most famous and visited garden of zen style. The layout of the beauty played by the stones and the white sand makes you feel the silence and the tranquility, letting visitors shed tears of excitement.

However, the styles and the tastes of Zen Garden are not limited to a particular form. Here, we will introduce various zen gardens and tell you about the goodness and the beauty of each.

As we mentioned above, the most famous zen garden is the one in Ryoanji, among all gardens in this garden style, but in fact, Japan is home to various zen gardens with varisous landscapes centering around Kyoto.

However, there are so many that it is not easy to carefully select, appreciate and visit! You might also want to know the best season to visit them.

So, this time, I picked up the best 5 from the many zen gardens, so I’d be happy if you could use this as a reference (however, it is the best 5 from my selfish aesthetic point of view).

Remark: The information here was collected in February, 2021. We recommend that you contact the temple of your interest in advance to make sure that each garden is open to the public on the date of your actual visit.

Zen Garden with beautiful contrast with cherry blossoms

Taizoin, Myoshinji with Yin Yang Garden

zen garden, Yin and Yen Garden

The style of Zen Garden is used in “Yin-Yang Garden”, which creates the atmosphere of yin and yang with weeping cherry blossoms as the boundary. In the garden of Yang, stones are placed in a space mainly composed of white sand, and in the spring season, the contrast between the white sand and the color of the weeping cherry blossoms is strikingly beautiful.

Also, in the garden of Yin, stones are exquisitely arranged in a space mainly made of black sand, and you can feel the majesty. Waves are also expressed by sand, and it is an excellent place to enjoy the “chicness” of Zen Gardens.

As the name suggests, the contrast between the zen garden composed of mainly white sand and the zen garden composed of mainly black sand is beautiful, because of its delicacy and zest! This garden is taken up as a representative place in Kyoto by many media, and it is also a must-see spot for tourists.

京都 妙心寺 退蔵院の公式ウェブサイトです。季節の華やぎと禅寺の落ち着いた佇まいを兼ね添えた空間を、どうぞゆっくりご拝観ください。

Kodaiji that is famous for one weeping cherry tree

Weeping Cherry Tree within zen garden in Kodaiji
The above picture was cited from Kodaiji Official Site.

This temple is famous for one weeping cherry tree that blooms beautifully in a zen garden. Hideyoshi Toyotomi (Daijo-daijin, top of a government office at this era) unified Japan in 1590, and his lawful wife, Kitanomandokoro (commonly known as Nene), founded this temple to mourn Hideyoshi after his passing.

The white sand and the dense sand dunes laid out in the garden (called Hashintei), and the branches of the weeping cherry tree that blooms in spring shine in the white sand are just exquisite. As the branches with light red flowers of the cherry tree sway in the wind, the sand patterns that express the flow of water create an extremely delicate and elegant space.

Weeping Cherry Tree with Illumination within zen garden in Kodaiji
The above picture was cited from Kodaiji Official Site-Illumination.

Zen Garden with Beautiful Moss

Daitokuji Temple with beautiful contrast between moss and zen garden

zen garden in Daitokuji with beautiful Moss

Daitokuji is consisted of many towers (small temples) exist on its large site and has insatiable charming gardens. It is historically associated with Sen no Rikyu, a famous tea master from the Azuchi-Momoyama period. In 1589, Sen no Rikyu completed the construction of the gate of this temple, called Sanmon.

There are five Zen Gardens in Daitokuji, and splendid mosses are used everywhere. The garden that is the most famous for its moss is called Isshidan in front of the main hall (called hojyo) where a principal image is enshrined.
Kamejima ia a round area covered with mosses, and is located in the center of the garden. The Japanese stonework (トラベルjp) is placed in Kamejima, and is characterized by a crane and a turtle that are used as the symbols of longevity.

The white sand in this garden represents the ocean, and the stones placed on it represent the crane , the turtle and the island of immortality and longevity. It is interesting to know not only the well-balanced and beautifully arranged stonework, but also the meaning of it. The contrast between the white sand of Zen Garden and the lush moss garden is just beautiful.

大徳寺 : 臨済・黄檗 禅の公式サイト

Zen Garden with beautiful autumn leaves and moss

Shokokuji where you can enjoy Zen Garden and the multifaceted beauty of nature at the same time

zen garden in Shokokuji with Beautiful Autumn Leaves

The above picture was cited from 京都フリー写真素材.

Shokokuji was built around 1382 during the Muromachi period by Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, a general of Muromachi Shogunate. The temple was started by Muso Soseki (called Musokokushi as well) who is also said to be the first garden maker in Japan.

Kaisando garden, a zen garden at Shokokuji, is of a flat garden style similar to the one at Ryoanji. This is a place where you can enjoy a stream located between moss and artificial hills at the same time in a zen garden.

During the fall foliage season (early November to early December), the trees that grow on the moss turn red all at once, and the contrast of the colored leaves with the white sand is breathtaking. The autumn leaves that fall on the sand patterns drawn on the white sand also bring out a delicate beauty that you could have ever imagined.

相国寺 | 臨済宗相国寺派

Komyozenji (located in Fukuoka, Kyusyu) with beautiful maple trees reminiscent of a small forest

zen garden in Komyoji in Dazaifu

Here, we would like to exceptionally introduce a zen garden from Kyushu, the sourthern part of Japan, not from Kyoto. Komyozenji is located on the right side of the information center of Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, which is famous for the god of learning, Sugawara no Michizane (the right minister under the emperor who was later transferred to Dazaifu and became an official). It is called “Moss Temple” in Dazaifu. It was erected in 1273 (Kamakura period).

A can’t-miss scenery here is the backyard that can be seen from the large room with tatami mats in the main hall (where the principal image is enshrined). The panoramic view of zen garden with beautiful white sand is said to be unspeakable. Moss represents land and islands, and white sand represents water and the ocean. It expresses how a drop of water spreads and flows into the ocean.

Also, during the fall foliage season (from mid-November), the depth created by the small forest, together with the leaves that fall in the pattern of white sand, show a deep and delicate beauty.

We hope you enjoyed various types of zen gardens that are mostly located in Tokyo.  Next, we are also introducing you to some zen garden miniatures & decor in the following link.  Bringing your own zen gardens into your home is relaxing and pleasurable!
miniature & decor

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