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Tenju-an: Lost in Reflection in Nanzen-ji’s Hidden Garden

Read on to find out why Tenju-an is most definitely worth fitting into your Kyoto city itinerary.




Kyoto is awash with picturesque gardens and ponds. Be they dry-stone, botanical or verdant moss or ponds filled with koi, the city offers endless choices.

Naturally, each competes for a visitor’s limited time. Few travellers visit Tenju-an, an unassuming side garden located in the Nanzen-ji temple complex. Read on to find out why Tenju-an is most definitely worth fitting into your Kyoto city itinerary.

A senior monk from nearby Nanzen-ji takes a stroll around Tenju-an gardens.
A senior monk takes a stroll around Tenju-an gardens.

Tenju-an: uncommonly uncrowded.

The Nanzen-ji temple complex is a maze of buildings, beyond the usual combination of statue halls and abbot’s quarters. As such, it would be easy to overlook some of the additional sites, such as Nanzen-in or the Tenju-an garden.

If you’ve already seen Nanzen-ji’s incredible gardens, you might think that Tenju-an’s are superfluous. Tenju-an, however, is an entirely different experience. Walkways and paths lead visitors deep into the garden, shrouded by maple trees. Instead of viewing from an elevated walkway, Tenju-an encourages visitors to move closer.

Entering the complex (¥500) gives visitors the chance to peer into the shaded depths of the wooden central hall. From here, turning left leads to temple eaves overlooking stepping stones and a moss garden.

You can remove your shoes and sit on the wooden steps for as long as you please, or make your way through the stone ‘river’ path to the far side of the hall. Gradually, you’ll likely notice how few people are in the garden at any one time. Fortunately, Tenju-an’s propensity for being overlooked makes it a tranquil rarity in busy Kyoto.

The staggered entryway to the lower garden (left) and the viewing room overlooking the forested pond (right). Tags: koi, reflection, Tenju-an, Nanzen-ji

(You can read the rest of the article at this link. This article was first published by Team JJ on November 23, 2021. Check here for deeper and unique insights into visiting Japan, including wellness, travel, cuisine and more. Find us on Instagram and on Facebook.)

Author: Team JJ


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