Top choice in Arashiyama & Sagano

A major temple of the Rinzai school, Tenryū-ji has one of the most attractive gardens in all of Kyoto, particularly during the spring cherry-blossom and autumn-foliage seasons. The main 14th-century Zen garden, with its backdrop of the Arashiyama mountains, is a good example of shakkei (borrowed scenery). Unfortunately, it’s no secret that the garden here is world class, so it pays to visit early in the morning or on a weekday.

It was built in 1339 on the old site of Go-Daigo’s villa after a priest had a dream of a dragon rising from the nearby river. The dream was seen as a sign that the emperor’s spirit was uneasy and so the temple was built as appeasement – hence the name tenryū (heavenly dragon). The present buildings date from 1900. You will find Arashiyama’s famous bamboo grove situated just outside the north gate of the temple.