Another great location to see the red maple leaves in autumn and cherry blossom in spring is Tenryuji Temple at Arashimaya, Kyoto Japan. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. This place gets super crowded during autumn and spring every year.
1. Entrance Fees
- There is an entrance fee – Adult at 500yen (USD4.50) & Child at 300yen (USD2.70)
- Opening Hours 8.30 am to 5.30 pm during summer
- Opening Hours 8.30 am to 5.00 pm during winter
- No food and drink is allowed in the garden
- No pet
- No Drone
- No smoking
2. Two Entrance
There are two entrance to Tenryuji Temple, one at the main road and another at the back which will link you to Arashimaya Bamboo Forest.
3. Heavenly Dragon Temple 天龍寺
Tenryuji Temple in Japanese means “Heavenly Dragon Temple” and it ranked number one out of the Five Great Zen Temples in Kyoto. A must visit if you are in Kyoto Arashimaya for the Bamboo Forest.
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4. Head Temple of Rinzai Zen Buddhism 臨済宗
Tenryuji Temple serves as the head temple of the Tenryu branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. The first chief priest of Tenryuji Temple was Muso Soseki 夢窓 疎石 who was the monk teacher, a famous calligraphist, poets, and garden designer. (1275 – 1351)
5. Sogen Pond Garden – Highlight
This is the most iconic spot to shoot photos as you get the best backdrop ever. It allows visitors to appreciate the scenery from a variety of perspectives. You can stand hours looking a the leaves, pond, water, rocks and the reflections.
6. “Borrowed Scenery”(shakkei/借景)
If you look closely the garden actually “borrowed scenery” (shakkei/借景) from the nearby mountains and used to give the garden a sense of added depth. Shakkei is the principle of “incorporating background landscape into the composition of a garden” found in traditional East Asian garden design, origin from China.
I was here in the early autumn, many of the leaves have not turned red yet. You should also look at the reflection from the pond.
7. Burned Down 8 Times
The temple was burned down 8 times due to fires but the garden still remains the original form since its creation (created by the chief monk – Muso Soseki who is also a famous poet in Japan). The garden is the highlight of Tenryuji Temple.
8. Muso Soseki’s Poem
This is one of the best poem written by Muso Soseki depicting his thoughts on a Zen garden.
“When a garden is used as a place to pause for thought, that is when a Zen garden comes to life.
When you contemplate a garden like this it will form a lasting impression on your heart.” – Muso Soseki
9. Viewing Veranda
The traditional dry landscape of the Zen garden consists of a few elements; rocks and racked gravel. There are contained in a geometric area with a raised veranda that allows viewing the garden from different angles. You can sit and look and meditate.
10. “Samon” 砂紋- The Waves
Gravel is usually used in the zen garden, usually in a pattern recalling waves or rippling water, known as “samon”(砂紋). Zen priests practice this raking to help their concentration as achieving perfection of lines is not easy. Don’t believe, try it yourself.
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11. “Karesansui”枯山水 means “Dry Landscape” in Zen Ideology
The monk gardener places rocks in a bed of gravel in strategic locations to symbolize islands and mountains and rake the gravel to suggest flowing water to create “karesansui” or the dry landscape.
12. Treasures inside the temple
The temple has few important cultural properties which may interest you to check them out. There are few portraits of Muso Soseki, (the teacher of the monk who designed the garden), the wooden carving of Gautama Buddha and some painting of the Guanyin.
13. Old Wall of Tenryuji
Do not forget to take a look at the old wall on the way out of Tenryuji Temple. It recycles the old Japanese roofing tiles and used them at the wall. It is a beautiful work of art.
Outside the temple, you can see people in kimono, rickshaw and shops and cafe.
Japanese lady in kimono
Nearby Shrine: Matsunoo-taisha
The Matsunoo- Taisha Shrine is only about slightly over 1 km away from the Arashiyama city. It is also one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto and enshrines the deity of water and the water is really good for sake-brewing. It also has the most beautiful garden with water and rocks. Don’t miss out this place if you are in Arashimaya.
Tenryuji Temple is a must visit if you are in Arashimaya Kyoto, you can do it together with the Bamboo Forest as it is only located behind the temple. The buildings in Tenryuji Temple were burned down 8 times but the iconic zen garden landscape still remains the original and was built by Muso Soseki, the monk who is also a famous poet in Japan.
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