Dear solo travelers, bliss out here. Xoxo, Nature.
Unlike many other fantastic temples in Kyoto Prefecture, Enko-ji is almost guaranteed not to be crowded even though it’s located in Kyoto City. Perfect for that life-changing bout of reflection only a Zen atmosphere can bring, this area is spot on for solo travel.
Once you arrive, take your time to admire the simple entrance, walk along large stone steps and enjoy the peaceful view of the rock garden. The white stone garden (featured in the main photo) is called “Dragon Garden,” as its shape reminds one of dragon flames.
Walking through this first part of the temple, you’ll see a bamboo forest, maple trees and moss. There’s no pressure, so you can really enjoy staying there for hours without interruption.
The garden is also known for its suikinkutsu, which literally translates to “water koto cave.” Essentially, it is garden ornament and music device that drips water and creates a sound similar to the Japanese instrument known as a koto — a 13-string instrument similar to a zither.
The temple’s structure is not as majestic as Kyoto City’s Gold or Silver pavilions but is a miniature of the perfect Japanese Zen garden. Travel here in any season, especially for momiji (Japanese maple) leaves in late November and cherry blossoms in the spring.
The temple started as a school around 400 years ago by Tokugawa Ieyasu, an important shogun (warlord of Japan). His aim was to spread education, as he wanted people to study. Now, as in the past, students are going here to practice meditation. You might even see some people practicing while you’re visiting.
And, you can even join in by sitting down and relaxing on the tatami mats while viewing the exquisite natural scenery. Monks here maintain of every square inch of the grounds, so please respect this space while visiting as a tourist.
In the area
This temple’s northeastern location means there is a lot nearby.
Dig this scenery? Check out more temples in Japan.