A Walk through Arashiyama and the Gardens of Tenryu-ji Buddhist Temple

IMG_9674 To walk from the Arashiyama monkey park to Tenryu-ji temple and the world-famous bamboo forest, we took a nice stroll across the river and down a main street for about 15 minutes. The scenery in Arashiyama was ridiculously beautiful. Pictures do not do it justice, especially in the late afternoon light. The mountains, and the river, and the blue sky- I wanted to shoot a panoramic picture every few steps! There are many ways to enjoy the scenery, including taking a boat on the river. If we had a full-day here in Arashiyama, a boat ride would have made our list! IMG_9684IMG_9677

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IMG_9688By the time we made it to the Tenryu-ji Buddhist temple, it was late afternoon, and they were closing soon. There are a few ticket options here- temple only, temple and garden, or garden only. The temple seemed to be built on a platform above the ground, and so shoes were to be left at the entrance, and we could explore the temple with stocking feet. Well, our boys were happy in the stroller for the moment, and we had all of our backpacks with us, so we opted to skip going inside the temple part, and just buy a ticket for the garden. The temple looked really neat, though- if we had more time, energy and gumption we would have done both!

IMG_9696The temple itself was established in 1339, and the garden was laid out by a Zen master at that time. Although the buildings have suffered fires, the gardens have remained basically unchanged since they were designed. The pond was designed so that walkers in the garden could enjoy the scenery from a variety of perspectives. I love Asian gardens, and this garden was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen! The open design of the temple meant that those worshiping could see the garden from inside. The designer used “borrowed scenery” by having the foliage of the garden blend into the mountain behind, so that it appears that it continues right up the mountain!

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IMG_9706 IMG_9711A rock formation in the pond symbolizes a Chinese legend that says that a carp that can jump up a big waterfall in China turns into a dragon. This has become a symbol for enlightenment. This same rock design can be seen in many Zen Buddhist temples throughout the country. This specific rock formation is a little different in that it has a rock representing the fish to the side of the falls, so that it is in the process of turning into a dragon.


IMG_9716On our way from the main garden to the north gate- where we exited to visit the Bamboo Forest- there was this pretty little shrine dedicated to Kannon. Landon saw the dippers and immediately wanted to take a drink. Before either of us could stop him, he succeeded, so of course I had to capture it on camera.


Tenryu-ji Buddhist temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the gardens are a protected site in Japan as well. Many tourists go to Arashiyama to see the bamboo forest- I would highly recommend stopping into this temple and/or garden on the way to or from the forest. Although the Arashiyama area is on the outskirts of Kyoto and takes longer to reach, between the monkey park, this temple, the bamboo forest and overall scenery it is well worth the trip! If worried, like we were, about taking the train both ways with kiddos, we found that taking a taxi directly to one attraction, and then walking around Arashiyama and taking the train back split up the modes of travel and made it more enjoyable for us.


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