Ryoan-ji is the most famous and most austere Zen Buddhist garden. A rectangular space is bounded on two sides by a verandah and on the other two sides by walls. Within, the space is covered by raked quartz. Raking produces a pattern around 15 rocks in 5 groups in a significant mathematical relationship They are of 5, 2, 3, 2 and 3 rocks, which link the observer to an abstract conception of nature.
See blog post discussion on whether Ryoanji is correctly classified as a 'Zen garden'.
Ryoan-ji is a the quintessential dry landscape garden. It is currently undergoing renovation; with the main hall deck being refurbished. The sand garden is open to view, but the overall balance is disturbed by the new scaffolding. This scaffolding, though, allows a closer view of the stones that make up the garden, so I would still recommend visiting. The surrounding gardens are also excellent, and the restaurant inside the grounds is to be recommended.
Another garden of similar style is Nanzen-ji, in higashiyama, it is accessible from the Tozi-line subway (Keage Stn)It is good to see both as a constrast in dry landscape gardens.
Ryoanji is very peaceful and quite small. I liked the sand garden and I liked the parkland-garden around the sand garden. It has a lake and flowers and lots to see and photograph.
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