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March, 2016

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The second temple on our Kyoto city tour with our guide, Chiaki, was “Ryoanji”: and its rock garden.

Having walked around the tree lined pond called Kyoyochi, we came across the rock garden. The flat rectangular space measures 25m by 10m with low walls made from clay boiled in oil. It’s filled with white gravel raked aesthetically to represent the sea. Strategically placed are 15 stones of varying sizes signifying some of Japan’s many islands. I say strategically because no matter what position you look from, you cannot see all 15 stones at the same time. The gravel is raked by a monk every 7 to 10 days. No one really knows when and who constructed the garden, but it’s thought to date from around 1500. Lots of people are said to go and meditate whilst sat on the wooden decking next to the garden.

We then walked through yet more gardens full of maples and pines, but here the cherry blossom wasn’t yet out although we did see plum blossom.

Crossing a bridge took us to a small Shinto shrine denoted by the vivid orange entrance. Chiaki encouraged us to throw pebbles to see if we could get them to land on the narrow cross piece as this would bring us good luck.

On our way out, we passed the restaurant which as well as serving ice-creams, specialises in the Kyoto specialty yudofu (boiled tofu). Fortunately Chiaki suggested trying the former and not the latter.

Whilst this garden is no doubt peaceful, I’m not sure the rock garden really did it for me.

Helen Jackson

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