Ryoanji Kyoto

Day 2 | Ryoanji & Ninnaji

Like all other weekdays, day 2 started out with me walking to the university. We ended up forgetting the way there (go figure) despite the roads being completely straight. Kyoto was built with great uniformity, and if you take a look at a map of the city, all you see are perfectly carved little boxes that are the roads of the city. This makes it extremely easy to navigate if you plan on walking somewhere (and trust me you will, given transportation prices there).

playground kyotoA pretty playground on the way to school

The fruits at the right of the picture are persimmons by the way. They’re found in a lot of the temples that I went to. Speaking of which, after lunch with buddy san I decided to go to 2 nearby temples-Ryoanji and Ninnaji. Both are UNESCO world heritage sites, and are 10 minutes away from the university. I initially wanted to go somewhere nearby as I had not bought my sim card yet (no google maps, the horror) but surprisingly, the offline maps app I had downloaded, Maps.me, was pretty great. You can plan walking routes and bookmark places. But if you don’t have Internet access it does not provide public transportation route suggestions.


The first temple that I went to, Ryoanji, was easily one of my favourites. This temple seemed to have been overlooked by tour groups, which is a huge bonus. Besides a few small school groups and old couples, there was barely anyone there. And this temple is seriously beautiful, especially since I went when autumn was in full swing.

Route into Ryoanji

The temple has a garden that is covered in maple trees, and has many scenic spots to take pictures, with no tourists in the background. The ground was also covered in maple leaves that rustled with each step, creating a really tranquil and beautiful atmosphere.

Ryoanji is most famous for its zen rock garden, which has a small entry fee of about 500 yen. It has a really interesting arrangement of 15 rocks, from which at any given angle (besides from above of course) only 14 can be seen at one time. It is said that to see the 15th, you must attain enlightenment. Since I was not planning on attaining enlightenment anytime soon, I took great joy in counting and taking pictures of the 14 rocks I could see.

So zen

Whenever visiting temples, it would be best if you wore shoes that you can take of easily. I failed to take this into account when packing and had to lace and unlace my shoes every single time I went to a temple. After putting on my annoying lacy shoes, I proceeded towards the pond and back gardens. The pond was lined with maple trees; their leaves creating ripples as they fell into the water. I seriously can’t recommend this temple enough, especially if you plan to visit Kyoto in autumn.

kyoto ryoanji

Next was Ninnaji, which was about 5 minutes away from Ryoanji. It also had a small entrance fee. To be honest, this was a little unfair for Ninnaji, because after seeing Ryoanji my expectations had shot up immeasurably, and nothing I saw that day could have possibly topped it. I’m also a huge fan of nature (in case you can’t already tell) and Ryoanji simply had more of it.

Entrance of Ninnaji

Ninnaji was even more quiet, with there being no school groups at all. Even though I was a bit disappointed, this place definitely had its charm with its historically significant architecture. There were several small buildings within the temple grounds, which were all important cultural properties.

Grand structures

The temple grounds are also famous for its sakura trees, which colour the area bright pink in spring. Obviously, it would have been much better to visit this place in spring when the sakura are in full bloom.

There was this pretty view though

There were also smaller gardens within some of the structures, which had beautiful paintings and calligraphy on its walls. I also really like how the buildings were built on stilts, it somehow adds to the serenity of the place.

Move dude you’re in my shot

My roommate and I then spent some time walking along the main roads and exploring the shops nearby before finally returning back to our dorm. We walked a lot that day- 13397 steps to be precise. I was so tired I ended up buying dinner (sandwiches and onigiri) from 7/11 and eating in my room. But it was definitely worth it because damn those onigiri are really good.

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