Kyoto is full of wonderful rock gardens. Probably the most famous dry rock landscape garden that we visit on on our Kyoto city cycling tours is the legendary Ryoanji temple. Being the most photographed rock garden in Japan, it can be quite busy with tourists during the peak season. And although I have cycled here a handful of times on our tours it never gets old, relaxing on its veranda. Nobody really knows who was behind its construction, nor can anyone agree on its true meaning or purpose. I suppose its Ryoanji’s everlasting mysticism that continues to captivate audiences from all over the world.
But if I had to choose one dry rock landscape garden to visit in Kyoto on our cycling tours, it would certainly have to be the exquisite example found in Zuiho-in. I have witnessed its splendour across all seasons in Kyoto, making note of how our many guests find new meanings in its layout. Some have told me that they see a sleeping dragon, while others feel that the design evokes strength and courage, compelling them to keep a straight posture as they tour the garden. The head priest does sometimes give us a tour of the adjoining temple and explains poetically the importance of posture, strength, breathing, and meditation. This too could be adding new interpretations to the rock gardens calming yet aggressive patterns. In any case, I feel that this Zen garden in Kyoto is a truly stunning example of Japan’s “beauty in simplicity” aesthetic. A beautiful find after cycling through one of Kyoto’s quieter Zen Buddhist monasteries.