Finding Zen: Kyoto's Best Gardens

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Kyoto's history as the former capital of Japan and a leader in architecture and design makes it one of the best cities to see traditional Japanese gardens. From temple zen gardens to lush green spaces, here are the spots you won't want to miss.

This temple is one of the most popular in the city, famous for its zen rock garden frequented by monks and travelers. Wander the grounds and find peace at the sparse, dry garden before checking out the temple's main buildings. If you're interested in learning about dry landscape gardens, consider a scholar-led walking tour of Kyoto's landscape.

Okochi-sanso Villa
The Okochi-sanso Villa is one of Kyoto's best gardens for a stroll thanks to its lush green environment. A stone pathway winds through the area, where green growth of every variety greets visitors. Okochi-sanso Villa is a popular stop on Arashiyama and Sagano walking tours—be sure to also visit the nearby Sagano bamboo groves.

Tenryu-ji Temple
Built in 1345 and declared a UNESCO World-Heritage site in 1994, this zen temple features a beautiful garden with a circular pattern that surrounds the Sogen Pond. Tenryu-ji was designated a Special Place of Scenic Beauty of Japan for good reason.

Myoshin-ji Temple 
The pond garden at Myoshin-ji is one of Kyoto's most modern outdoor spaces. Constructed in the 1960s, the garden shows off design from the Showa period meant for contemplation and appreciation of beauty. 

Sento Gosho Garden
The walled garden in the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park is reminiscent of ancient era when moats and wide-open spaces were more common than towering high rises. You'll find more greenery and ponds than buildings at Sento Gosho, which can only be visited on guided tours.
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