Kyoto Gardens

Nijo Castle beautiful garden view

Kyoto is an extraordinarily beautiful city with many, many beautiful gardens. I visited Kyoto in May, so while it was beautiful with lush, green foliage everywhere, it was sort of like the lull time between the full blooming of cherry blossoms and azaleas in the spring, and the explosion of color that happens every fall. I couldn’t quite figure out if I was there at the tail end of the azalea blooming season or right at the beginning of the season. Based on the azalea blooming season in Seoul, I was there to see the season off for another year, not welcome a new one. Like the photo above, I saw enough azaleas to see how extraordinarily beautiful it would be to be there for the full bloom season. That photo, and the photo below, is from the garden at Nijo Castle and it was so peaceful and beautiful on that bright, sunny afternoon.

Nijo Castle garden azaelas

All the Kyoto temples, castles and shrines have at least a small garden to enjoy. Kodaiji Temple has some beautiful foliage while walking through the temple grounds, including a small bamboo forest.

Kyoto interesting tree

I kept imagining what this tree will look like in the fall. I’ve seen pictures of amazing Japanese trees during autumn, and the rainbow of colors is awe inspiring to behold. I want to see Japanese foliage in the full thrust of autumn at some point in my life.

Kodaiji Temple complex

Kodaiji Temple garden window view

This view looks almost like a  painting, but rather it is framed by a door.

Kodaiji Temple bamboo forest

Ryonanji Temple also has a garden, but it is not the typical garden you expect. Sure, the temple is located on a woodsy grounds, but the centerpiece garden of this temple is a famous Zen rock garden. It was created in the 15th century during the Muromachi Period, and consists of 15 rocks set in waves of neatly organized white temples, surrounded by clay walls. Visitors aren’t able to walk in the garden obviously, but there is a wooden veranda visitors can contemplate the garden.

Ryoanji Temple Zen rock garden

Another beautiful garden is the Shinen Gardens located at the Heian Shrine. This was another place replete with azaleas in partial bloom, and I kept imagining what it looks like during the height of blooming season when it would be a riot of color. It was also full of fledgling iris flowers and waterlilies, which just started their blooming season.

Shinen Gardens irises pond

me at Shinen Gardens waterlily pond

Shinen Garden waterlily pond overhead view

The waterlilies were starting their summer blooming season. At times, it almost felt I was in a hidden world somewhere in Narnia.

Shinen Garden waterlily pond stepping stones

water snake at Shinen Gardens waterlily pond

A water snake slithering through a waterlily pond.

Shinen Gardens waterlily pond closeup

Shinen Gardens waterlily pond overhead wide view

I only saw a few gardens, and what I did see made me want to come back to the city during the fall. Sure I’d also love to see the city during cherry blossom season, but that blooming season only lasts seven to 10 days. So it is hard to coordinate a vacation during cherry blossom season, and it’s easier to catch if you actually live in Japan. But autumn is my favorite time of the year, and I’m always on the lookout for beautiful, colorful nature. Kyoto would probably be the ideal place in Japan to experience the height of all. I’m seriously considering coming back on one of my fall long weekends.