Kyoto – Learning about Japanese Gardening and Landscaping with Context Travel

After a rainy first day where we spent the morning at the Nishiki Market and the afternoon learning a bit about Zen spirituality at Kennin-ji Temple, we woke to clear skies ready to head out for a final Context Travel tour. We woke up early as Mr. Misadventures wanted to take sunrise photos of the city from the rooftop terrace of our hotel, the Westin Miyako.

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Kyoto form the Westin Miyako Roof
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

All that hard work watching the hubby take his photos deserved a reward…a hearty breakfast! One of the best things about staying at the hotel was breakfast. I love breakfast, but one thing I love more than breakfast is an Asian breakfast. You guys know about my dimsum habit, and there is nothing better than eating breakfast at a hotel in China, Japan, South Korea. I was one happy girl.

Westin Miyako Breakfast

So after filling the belly, we headed out to Kinkaku-ji Temple to meet our Context Travel docent, Casper for our last tour of the week.

Our goal was to learn more about Japanese gardening and landscaping techniques and visiting temples was a perfect way to see examples of several different styles. We met up with another San Francisco couple (complete coincidence) and headed into Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion.

Kinkaku-ji Temple Kyoto
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

And Golden it was.

Kinkaku-ji Temple Kyoto
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

Given the crisp sky (all cleaned up from the rain) and the reflection of the temple and the clouds on the water that the pavilion rests on, it is extremely difficult to take a bad picture!

Kinkaku-ji Temple Kyoto
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

There are three different architectural styles and absolutely everything from top-to-bottom symbolizes something, it’s fascinating that every facet of the villa means something and Casper (and his family) have studied this type of architecture for a very long time (I wouldn’t expect anything less of a Context Travel docent!)

Kinkaku-ji Temple Kyoto
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

Kinkaku-ji is surrounded by a park with beautiful gardens, each corner you turn, something more breath-taking to see. For someone whose favorite color is red, it is spectacular!

Kinkaku-ji Temple
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

Much like my visits to temples in Tokyo, I love reading the ema, small wooden plaques that people write prayers or wishes on. I find them very beautiful and fun to read.

Kytoto Ema

From Kinkaku-ji we walked to Ryoan-ji (you can take a bus) but it was such a beautiful morning and by walking we could see “typical” Kyoto neighborhoods so we voted to take a longer path and walk.

If we hadn’t walked we would have missed seeing things like this, a group of very young children out with their teachers, I love how organized (and safe) the kids are!

Kyoto Children

When we arrived at Ryoan-ji Temple, it was really interesting to see the stark contrast of this temple to Kinkaku-ji. The Golden Pavilion is surrounded by water and is lush and full of plant life. Ryoan-ji is more of a typical Zen garden with gravel and rocks that represent water. Still beautiful, but in a completely different way.

Ryoan-ji Temple
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

The fallen red maple leaves still kind feel like they are sitting on top of the water.

Ryoan-ji Temple Kyoto Japan
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

In the main garden, there are 15 rocks to sit and ponder. You have to sit as the only way to see the 15th rock is from a sitting position. I didn’t mind, having experienced it the day before, there is something really serene about sitting down and just observing the garden. [I totally want to have a garden like this in the future, one that I am not supposed to do anything to except sit there and ponder life!]

Ryoan-ji Temple Garden

We tore ourselves away and made a short walk to Ninna-ji temple, which is my mind was a combination of the two styles we had seen earlier in the day that had both “wet” and “dry” gardens. The most impressive part of Ninna-ji is the doors.

Ninna-ji Temple Kyoto Japan
Part of the doors at the Ninna-ji Temple. Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures, click for a LARGER view.

Similar to some of the other temples we had seen in the day before and would continue to see throughout the week, the doors usually were protected by statues on either side representing the whole world (above is one of the two), from the first letter (um) to the last letter (ah) and by walking through the door you are automatically purified for worshiping.

I find this type of story that goes along with a place, a building, a piece of land so fascinating! Everywhere you turn at any of the hundreds of temples in Kyoto you find beauty.

Temple beauty
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

Throughout the morning, which turned into early afternoon, Casper was so darn knowledgeable about all the symbolism and history and cultural aspects of the places we were visiting and Kyoto in general, I could not write my notes fast enough!

Temple beauty
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

Even though we planned on being on our own for the rest of the time we were in Kyoto, our first 36 hours in which we did three Context Travel tours really served as a great foundation and set us up for a successful and enjoyable trip.

I absolutely loved my time in Kyoto!

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Temple Gardening and Landscaping in Kyoto Japan

30 Comments

  1. Charu
    June 16, 2014

    These photos are really something else!

    Reply
  2. Michelle Salais
    June 16, 2014

    Those first photos look like something out of a movie. Japanese gardens are so peaceful looking. I’m glad you enjoyed your time in Kyoto.

    Reply
  3. Kyla P
    June 16, 2014

    Wow this looks beautiful and so peaceful!

    Reply
  4. Terri S
    June 16, 2014

    What pretty pictures! It’s so beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  5. Shannon
    June 17, 2014

    OMG so pretty. I would love to go someday!

    Reply
  6. Dorothy Boucher
    June 17, 2014

    oh how nice, great pictures, I hope someday soon I will get to travel there 🙂 but thanks for sharing with us

    Reply
  7. Allyssa S
    June 18, 2014

    Great photos! I would love to travel there. It would be so amazing to wake up to that view everyday.

    Reply
  8. Jennifer
    June 20, 2014

    What gorgeous photos. Kyoto is really one of those places I wish I could visit. I think I’ll put it on my top 10 list of places to visit if I ever win the lotto 🙂

    Reply
  9. Claire D
    June 20, 2014

    Oh, wow, what gorgeous places. And so wonderfully captured. I’m very envious of your trip. I would love to go on all these adventure/cultural/exploration package trips they have now-a-days. I’ve always loved guided tours.

    Reply
  10. Michael W Perkins
    June 23, 2014

    The wife spent Years in Japan

    Reply
  11. Christine
    April 3, 2015

    It always surprises me what people in other countries eat for breakfast. Here I sit in the USA with my bowl of cereal and orange juice but other countries go all out with meat and potatoes!!

    Reply
  12. Jaclyn Anne
    April 6, 2015

    Beautiful, peaceful and serene, I would love to visit Japan on day!

    Reply
  13. coolchillmom
    April 11, 2015

    you sure share amazing images! it is such an idyllic place. Glad you went there

    Reply
  14. Heather
    April 11, 2015

    Wow, sounds like you had a really great time. I love that everything in the temple and gardens have a meaning. Very fascinating!

    Reply
  15. Joanne T Ferguson
    April 12, 2015

    I always love viewing your posts as they are so interesting and love seeing your travels through your unique view! Love Japanese gardens!

    Reply
  16. Chanelle
    April 12, 2015

    You have very nice photos and captured your trip beautifully! Also, I read your About page and see that you’re a Bay Area native. I am based in SF too, I love finding local blogs. Cheers!

    Reply
  17. Tammilee Tips
    April 12, 2015

    Your pictures are beautiful!!! I love how bright and colorful all the scenery is in them!! Looks like a great place to visit.

    Reply
  18. Chrystal @ YUM eating
    April 12, 2015

    This would be a dream come true vacation for my husband. He has been wanting to go to Japan for as long as I have known him. I know Scotland is first on his list, but I am pretty sure he wouldn’t pass up a gorgeous trip like this if he had the chance.

    Reply
  19. One of my favorite things in the world is to actually see other cultures and hearing people talk about them.

    Reply
  20. Amanda
    April 12, 2015

    I always love reading your posts because the pictures are so amazing. The architecture and landscape in all of these photos is truly stunning. Bravo!

    Reply
  21. Local Adventurer
    April 12, 2015

    I would love to go on a tour like this. last time i was in kyoto i was there for a photography workshop, so we didn’t really get to see a lot of sites bc we were busy shooting. i definitely need to go back and get a more cultural experience. 🙂

    Reply
  22. Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com
    April 12, 2015

    Thanks for sharing your pictures and experience! The photos don’t do it justice, I’m sure. But I love the scenery and the little details that you’ve chosen to depict.

    Reply
  23. Rebecca Swenor
    April 12, 2015

    It looks like you had an awesome time indeed. The breakfast looks so amazingly delicious. I love these gorgeous pictures and all the history involved. I would so love to visit here some day. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  24. Franc Ramon
    April 12, 2015

    The structures in Kyoto is just amazing. They are so picturesque and really worth visiting.

    Reply
  25. ourfamilyworld
    April 13, 2015

    Those photos are just amazing. I would love to visit Japan and Kyoto one day. I want to eat Sushi and wander in these gardents

    Reply
  26. Yona Williams
    April 13, 2015

    The photos of Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) were very nice to see. I love all of the natural beauty you have captured in your snapshots. I love the trees!

    Reply
  27. Amby Felix
    April 14, 2015

    These photos are so stunning! I can’t wait to visit Kyoto. I love the tea garden in SF so I can only imagine what one over there is like.

    Reply
  28. Analyn
    April 14, 2015

    Wow! I am so in love with your photos!

    Reply
  29. Analyn
    April 14, 2015

    Wow! I am so in love with your photos! I would love to visit Japan too one day! I remember SamuraiX whenever I hear Kyoto 😀

    Reply
  30. Chrissy Mazzocchi
    April 15, 2015

    What a wonderful Country! I would love to go there and see the sites and the natural beauty is simply gorgoeus 🙂

    Reply

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