Ryōan-ji has a similar history to Kinkaku-ji. Situated in Kyōto, Japan, the land that Ryōan-ji sits on was originally owned by a branch of the Fujiwara family, which had an estate here, as well as a military commander, who also had an estate located on the land. The military commander was killed in the Ōnin War, leaving his estate to become a temple. At that point, Ryōan-ji was founded as a Zen temple but later destroyed in the continuing Ōnin War. From 1488-1499, the temple was reconstructed, at which time the temple's rock garden was created by the Zen monk Tokuho Zenketsu. The rock garden at Ryōan-ji is extremely famous, leading to its UNESCO World Heritage designation. The rock garden measures 25 meters east to west and 10 meters north to south and contains 15 various sizes of rocks surrounded by smaller white pebbles. The white pebbles are raked into straight lines and curves, which is said to inspire meditation in those who view it, while the raking itself is used as meditation for monks.
We began our tour of Ryōan-ji by paying for our tickets and wandering up a path surrounded by green. Beautiful plant life greet us and welcome us to a peaceful temple. We have to take off our shoes, because we will be inside the main temple structure, which is an inside area that is to be kept clean. Walking through the temple, we see several relics from the history of the temple, each of which is beautiful in its own right. Finally, we make it to the reason we are there, the famous rock garden. I imagined it to be larger. Pictures give it near mythic proportions, but it seems humble and unassuming as I stand there looking out at the rocks. But for me, that's part of the beauty of the structure. I think of the people who have raked this garden into perfect lines and curves around the rocks, see no footprints in any part of the pebbles, and am awed by the dedication and practice it must take to make it look so effortless. We sit for 10 or 15 minutes amongst the other tourists, taking in the peace and beauty of the rock garden. All too soon, we are up again, leaving the temple to go about our day. Much like our walk to the temple, our walk from the temple is covered in green, our first and last sight of Ryōan-ji.