Our Best Garden Experience In Japan

The weather could not have been more fabulous in Kyoto this Golden Week.

Not too hot, not too muggy, it was just right.

Our first stop was was Nanzen-ji Temple and its aqueducts (more on that in a separate post) and, after entering the grounds, we noticed this:

The name Tenjyuan (天授庵 ) literarily means “Heaven Given”.  You won’t hear about this garden in most “Things You Must See In Kyoto” and that’s good. We had this stunning gem mostly to ourselves and what a discovery it was.

We were lucky since it’s only open in spring and autumn.

Here is a short video I made about our experience. The sounds in the video are what we actually heard, from the twitter of the birds to the gong of the monks’ bell. After you watch, I recommend returning to read more details in this blog.

Garden You Tube Video

Our experience was worth the 400 yen fee to enter the gardens. I’ve been to many gardens in Japan, but this was the best in my opinion.  There were large grounds at the Nanzen-ji complex, yet most walked right by this without a clue as to the wonder they were missing.

We were enraptured by the trance-like atmosphere of the garden. This sub-temple was created in dedication to a Zen Master who served in Emperor Kameyama in the 17th century. It is best seen in autumn.

When you first enter, you encounter a dry garden or a “kare-sansui”. The only sounds of the outside world we could hear were sounds of the monks’ bell and an occasional plane passing overhead.

We relaxed on the wooden porch for a bit, basking in the warm sun and peaceful glow of the garden.

Do you know why the bridge is in a zig-zag?

It is common to see these types of bridges in Japanese gardens.  According to old belief, evil spirits can only travel in straight lines, so they cannot cross this.

The main pond was covered in lily pads. My husband and I could not take enough photos of this. Digital photography and videography cannot capture the real feeling of a place no matter how hard you try. Unfortunately, you cannot bottle up an experience and relive it. If I could this would be one of those memories, I’d keep and relive whenever I felt sad.

There were turtles gathered on a rock (you can see them in the video) and I thought they were statues at first. They were so still.  One even jumped in the water, but I wasn’t fast enough to catch it on video.

Big, fat Koi fish filled the ponds and followed us, waiting for food. They were so colorful. I suspect they only pick they prettiest Koi to put in here.

And this was our experience here.  I know reading about it doesn’t capture the majesty of the moment, however, I hope it can give you an idea of what it was like.

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