Explore the delicate interplay of water, rock and plant life that constitutes the Japanese traditions of landscape and garden design as you explore Kyoto on a private walking tour with a local scholar. This tour offers an ideal opportunity to view some of Kyoto’s most exquisite outdoor spaces up close while learning about the traditions behind their creation.
Start your private walking tour just outside Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, on the corner of the streets Kurama-guchi Dori and Kagamiishi Dori. Your meeting time will depend on if you’ve selected a morning or afternoon tour. The ancient city of Kyoto, seat of the emperor for many centuries, makes for a perfect backdrop to explore the influences of Zen Buddhism and Japanese culture on this beautiful art form.
Make your first stop at Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion. This Zen Buddhist temple, originally a private villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, offers a perfect example of the principles of garden design during the 13th and 14th centuries. During your visit to the site, listen to your guide explain they key innovations in villa garden design that occurred between 1337 and 1573. The site’s Mirror Pond, for example, illustrates a perfect balance of water and stone in the environment. You’ll also hear about the various ways Japanese gardens were used for both entertainment and spiritual purposes.
Take a short bus ride to visit two unique Zen rock gardens, the Karesansui Garden at Ryoan-ji and gardens of Ninna-ji. First admire the dry rock garden at Ryoan-ji, forming a stylized pattern using stones and gravel. You’ll also learn why Ryoan-ji’s Karesansui Gardens offer a great example the landscape design typical of Zen Buddhist sites. At Zen Buddhist gardens, the form often follows the garden function, mimicking the central tenets of the Zen philosophy.
Make your final stop at Ninna-ji, a temple that contains both dry and water features. Walk along the covered walkways leading to the former home of the temple’s head priest, known as the Goten, offering excellent views of the building’s sliding doors painted with scenes mirroring the surrounding landscape. Your walking tour finishes here.