The oldest Zen temple, Kenninji
Kenninji is the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, founded in 1202 by Yousai, the guy who brought Zen and the concept of drinking tea to Japan. He’s recognized as the monk who started the tea ceremony.
Looking around the temple grounds is free, but the best parts of this temple lie inside the temple buildings and gardens.
Inside, you can enjoy the beautiful stone gardens, as well as some paintings on some of the walls. The white sand with wavy lines represents water, so this is basically a representation of an ocean with several islands.
Further inside, you’ll find the Chouontei Garden, a beautifully simple inner garden. Its name means “the garden of the tide’s sound.” The three stones in the center represent Buddha and two Zen monks. There’s also a stone for meditation, called “zazen-seki.” Quite a nice Instagram shot right there.
The Twin Dragons of Hattou
Continue on the path to the next building over, and you’ll enter Hattou (Dharma Hall). Look up, and you’ll see the twin dragons, a massive piece of artwork on the ceiling. Koizumi Junsaku painted the piece, and it took him about two years to complete.
This marks the finale when visiting Kenninji temple. Hopefully, by this time, you’ll have relaxed by the stone gardens and read up on some Zen, so that you’re refreshed and ready to visit your next spot in Kyoto!