For Beginners of Kyoto: Do You Know the Temple having the Rock Garden where Queen Elizabeth Visited? ~Ryoanji Temple~

One of the famous Japanese temple is Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto.

The temple is famous as having a rock garden made of rocks as the name.

The Rock Garden in Ryoanji Temple
The Rock Garden in Ryoanji Temple

Apparently, the reason that the rock garden became famous is related to Queen Elizabeth visiting.  Before her visiting,  Kyo Yo Chi (鏡容池), the garden having a huge pond, seems to have been more famous than the rock garden. 

Kyo Yo Chi Garden
Kyo Yo Chi Garden

Oh, well. I took this photo at the end of September, but the leaves must be beautiful in autumn. 

Some internet posts says “Queen Elizabeth highly praised the rock garden.” but our guide said different things.  According to her, the following is how the rock garden became famous.

  1. Queen Elizabeth visited to see the rock garden and said “I don’t understand it”.
  2. Some newspapers wrote an article “Queen Elizabeth says “I don’t understand”. The rock garden is the mystery of the Orient! .”  
  3. The readers draw attention it “What? What is the mystery of the Orient?”
  4. The fame of the rock garden and Ryoanji Temple spreads.

…If it is right, Queen Elizabeth hasn’t said any words to praise, has she?

Whatever, it seems to be sure that her visitng made it famous.   ( I researched which is correct on internet, but I couldn’t find any resourses such as article on newspapers. If you find the resource and you don’t mind, please let me know. m(_ _)m)

I am wondering “I don’t understand” meaning (I translated it from our guide saying, so, the nuances may be incorrect).   Most of foreigners think or feel such things when they see the rock garden?  Is it like ” Is it a garden!? OMG, incredible.  It is just putting rocks and stones!!” ? 

I don’t imagine how they think… If you don’t mind, please let me know how you feel.

I could think “The atmosphere is somehow nice.  The gravels seem to express momentary ripple… Probably.”  , but it is because I am a Japanese? Or it is only me, thinking such thing?

There are 15 big rocks in the garden, but you only can see 13 rocks from the front.  All rocks are located at the places where you cannot see all at once except a one place.  Why the rocks are put such places? There are various theories, but nobody knows the reason.

The Rock Garden Miniature for  Blind People (
The Rock Garden Miniature for Blind People

Ryoanji is also  famous as Tsukubai, a washbowl to purify hands before entering a tearoom. Tsukubai of Ryoanji Temple has letters 吾唯知足.  It says “吾唯足るを知る”( Ware Tada Taru wo Shiru われただたるをしる) in Japanese.   The interpretations are “A man who knows what fulness is is happy” , “Present is alway most satisfied status” or others. (To be honest, it is hard to explain… Even in Japanese, I couldn’t explain properly… Sorry. The best way to understand is asking it to a Zen monk…)

Famous Tsukubai in Ryoanji Temple
Famous Tsukubai in Ryoanji Temple (Replica)

I looked for a lecture of Zen as Ryoanji Temple is a Zen temple, but they seem not to provide it…(´・ω・`)

Their website mainly says the rock garden (*_*)

Oh, by the way, you can receive the goshuin☆

The Goshuin of Ryoanji Temple
The Goshuin of Ryoanji Temple

I couldn’t enter the main temple because there was a sign “Keep Out”. ( I didn’t know that there is a main temple where nobody enter!!)

I visited there as a tour, so I couldn’t take enough time. However, it must be fabulous at early morning when a few visitors only comes. 

Off The Subject

I found a boiled-Tofu restaurant in Kyo Yo Chi Garden!!

The Restaurant Sign
The Restaurant Sign
The Restaurant Gate
The Restaurant Gate

I will visit next time!!


 Ryoanji  (in Japanese)

TripAdvisor (To see the review)


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