The Beautiful Temples and Gardens of Kyoto

I’ve dreamed of Kyoto and its thousands of temples for as long as I’ve dreamed of Japan. I love Japanese architecture and zen gardens. One day, when I own a home, my backyard will be designed as a Japanese zen garden, complete with pond, koi fish, rock garden, and little waterfall. On my recent visit to Japan, Kyoto was the only place I wanted to see as much as Tokyo. Though it rained (sometimes heavily) during my visit, Kyoto, with its temples and gardens, was even more beautiful than I’d imagined. I spent hours wandering historic streets and darting in and out of tranquil temples. I ended up sitting down, listening to music, and staring out at one zen garden for over an hour.

But instead of yapping on about Kyoto’s sublime and blissful beauty, I’ll let Kyoto show you itself:

Kinkaku-ji, a.k.a. The temple of the Golden Pavilion
Kinkaku-ji, a.k.a. The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

The famous rock garden at Ryoan - ji Temple
The famous rock garden at Ryoan-ji Temple (my favorite)

torri gate in Ryoan - ji Temple
A torii gate at Ryoan-ji Temple

Ryoan - ji Temple walkway in Kyoto Japan
Ryoan-ji Temple

Kodaiji temple rock garden
Kodaiji Temple rock garden

Kinkaku-ji temple entrance, kyoto japan
Kinkaku-ji Temple entrance

A path in Daitoku-ju temple complex
A path in Daitoku-ji Temple complex

Entokuin temple rock garden kyoto
Entokuin Temple rock garden

One of the many temples in the Daitoku-ji temple complex
One of the many temples in the Daitoku-ji Temple complex

Chorakuji temple, kyoto japan
Chorakuji Temple

Entokuin temple rock garden, Kyoto Japan
Entokuin Temple rock garden

46 Comments
  1. Kyoto is so incredibly beautiful. It looks like the cloud cover actually gave you some nice soft lighting for your photographs. I really like the shot of the Kodaiji temple rock garden – very nicely done.

  2. Gorgeous photos! Interesting to note the differences between it, and Korean architecture; styles are similar, but here in Korea, buildings from that era and in that style are a LOT more colourful and there’s lots of ornate, rainbow-coloured detail everywhere.

    Love the rock garden. So much work must have gone into making it, and must go into its upkeep, too.

  3. Somtimes I’m grateful for a cloudy day since it makes my photos turn out a little better and less washed out. These look pretty awesome and are definitely making me want to visit.

    • NomadicMatt

      The rain added to the green but the sky in most of my photos isn’t that great. I’ll need to come back. :)

  4. David

    Hey man,

    Nice pictures, we will be driving all the way to Kyoto, too bad we won’t meet you there as we will get there only in 8-9 months. Thanks for the pictures.

  5. Concerned guy.

    Yep, great photos nomadicmatt, many thanks for posting them for people that haven’t been there yet, it’s a real shame that you’ve stubbed your toe or something which means you have to leave earlier than expected.

  6. This is just amazing. So serene and peaceful it looks! Hope I have time to explore Kyoto, as I have planned for Nara first. And how did you travel to Kyoto from Tokyo? Bullet train?

  7. Chion-in Forehead is the go temple for the Buddhist sect of Jodo Shu (Pure Land) and was founded by Honen in 1234. Chion-in Forehead is situated within a huge substance which these days is situated within Maruyama Recreation area in Kyoto. Chion-in Forehead functions the biggest remaining Sanmon (gate) in Asia which was designed in 1619 and is a Nationwide Value. Most other structures were renewed under the purchases of Tokugawa Iemitsu after being demolished by flame in 1633.

  8. Such great photos! Japan has been at the top of my countries to visit list forever, but the price to travel and live there always seems so high! I’m heading to Southeast asia in the summer (a lot cheaper) but would love to figure out a way to make it to Japan… even for a few days. Such beauty and peace!

  9. Ross Corbett

    Great photos Matt. I cannot tell you how jealous I am, have always wanted to visit Japan and posts like this just make me want to go more!

    Plus I love a little Sushi :)

  10. Nice photo’s considering the weather! I need to go back to Kyoto and see a few more, I really wanted to see Ryoanji but stayed at Kinkakuji for too long. It’s where I got engaged, couldn’t think of any better place in the world to do it. She said yes, so I guess it worked :-)

    Good to meet you tonight too Matt.

  11. I’m with you, Matt, on the Japanese-style backyard. A tranquil escape right in your own back yard. I’ve also wanted to visit Japan for quite awhile … ever since I saw “Big Bird Goes to Japan” when I was a little kid. That movie was perfect for little travel-enthusiast toddlers. I’m hoping to get there next spring, actually, as we’re moving to China later this year. I would love to see the Japanese Cherry Blossoms! Glad to see it looks like you’ve had a great trip!

  12. Kyoto is a very interesting place to visit, but has to offer so much that you have to come back several times in order to see everything!
    I live not too far from Kyoto and there are still so many things I need to explore!

    Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima are still the most popular tourist spots, but I swear that there are even more interesting places to explore in Japan!
    I’ve traveled to all 47 Japanese prefectures and there’s just so much people are missing if they stick with the “big 3″.

    I hope you’ll get another chance to visit Japan and discover some other spots as well! 😉

  13. Tom

    Matt, thanks the pictures. I’m 61, and my one major bucketlist item is visiting the gardens in Kyoto when cherry blossoms are in bloom.

  14. Hey Matt, I am really glad I found these picture, I am going to Kyoto and Osaka is three weeks, Hopefully the cherry blossoms will still be blooming then :) Is there anything else you would recommend in the area? I will be in Osaka for two days, kyoto for 2 and Nara for one. Thanks

  15. Rachel

    So excited to see these since I’m going there this summer! Just lovely! I can’t wait to stroll those paths in person!

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