Soul of the Garden

Images of Japan: Tenryu-ji, Kyoto

Tenryu-ji is considered by many to be the greatest of Kyoto’s Zen temples because of its long and complex history.  Today, it is a favorite of visitors who appreciate its beautiful setting at the base of the mountains in the charming Arashiyama district of western Kyoto. The founding abbot Muso Soseki, who was also a famous garden designer, established the temple in 1339. Tenryu-ji's garden is considered one of the oldest examples of classical Japanese garden design. A large pond adjoins the main temple and a strolling garden leads its visitors through peaceful maple groves and over azalea-strewn hillsides. We were fortunate that the azaleas were beginning to reach the peak of their blooming season when we visited. Tenryu means “dragon of the sky” and one of the sub-temples has a very impressive ceiling painting of a dragon that should not be missed, we nick-named him “Larry.” Don’t ask me why. Plan to spend at least half of a day in Arashiyama and Tenyru-ji; you won’t be disappointed.

The sounds of the streams splash out the Buddha’s sermon,

Don’t say that the deepest meaning comes only from one’s mouth.

Day and night, 80,000 poems arise one after the other,

And in fact, not a single word has ever been spoken.


-  Muso Soseki


A view over Tenryu-ji from the strolling garden.


A little wider view.


Rock garden in front of the main temple building.


A wide view of the pond and the veranda of the temple.


The whole complex feels tucked into the folds of the surrounding hills.


Roof detail.


A view from the temple into a courtyard. (Our native Cercis canadensis in bloom!)


The view from the veranda overlooking the pond.


A little closer.


Stone foot bridge.


Azaleas in the strolling garden.



Maple and azaleas.




Brilliant color.


Who could resist taking this path?


A little closer view.


Mountain breezes, wandering paths - a cuckoo calling from the shadows...


The courtyard of what I took to be the living quarters of the monks.


A view looking through a small sub-temple.


The stone within the lantern...


Cherry petal snow.


I have no idea what it says... just love the calligraphy and the maple leaves.


An abstract compostion taken from a small shrine within the temple complex.


Bamboo and cherry blossoms.


Paper lanterns and stone pagoda near the entrance of Tenryu-ji.

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