Kyoto Japanese Zen Gardens and Landscapes Small Group Walking Seminar

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Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion
Zen Garden
Zen Garden

What To Expect

Enjoy this small group tour of Kyoto's Zen gardens


  • Conducted with a seminar approach (no lectures!) to offer a narrative participatory experience

  • Learn from "docents" who are scholars or specialists with MAs, Ph.D.s or other terminal degrees in their fields of study

  • Guaranteed Small Group Tour with a maximum of 6 guests for an intimate, hands-on, conversational experience


Tours in Kyoto
Departs From:
Meeting Point:
Golden Pavilion / Kinkaku-ji
3 hours
Product Code:
Voucher info:
Paper voucher printout not required for this activity. You may show e-voucher from your mobile device.
Featured On:
Historic Monuments of Ancient KyotoKinkaku-jiKyoto Segway & Walking ToursKyoto City Tours & SightseeingSegway & Walking ToursCity Tours & Sightseeing


Garden and landscape design is an art form that has helped define the aesthetics of Japan for centuries. With a bevy of well-preserved temples, Kyoto has always been the perfect environment for seeing a wide variety of garden styles. During our three hour walking seminar we will focus on garden design during the Muromachi period, which saw a flourishing of Japanese culture, including the creation of Zen Buddhism.

Our time begins at Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion, situated in the north-west pocket of Kyoto. This Zen Buddhist temple began its life as a private villa in the 13th century. We will delve into villa garden design during the Muromachi period, which ran from approximately 1337 to 1573.

The Mirror Pond, which reflect the pavilion and contains numerous man-made islands will help us understand the use of water and stone in the environment. Aside from dissecting the various natural elements used to create the gardens, we will also discuss how these spaces were used, both for contemplation and entertainment, and how these uses changed as the space transformed from private villa to Buddhist temple.

After a short trip on the local bus, we will arrive at two excellent examples of Zen rock gardens. The Karesansui Garden at Ryoan-ji is a prime example of dry Zen gardens, giving great contrast to the water used at Kinkaku-ji. Ninna-ji, our final stop, dates from the Heian period, giving us a means to compare earlier landscape design against the later Muromachi period. Ninna-ji contains both dry gardens and gardens with water features, tying together the principles we have discussed during our seminar.

At the end of our time together we will come away with a deeper understanding into how Japanese garden and landscape reflect a wider philosophy and culture. We will also gain insight into the renaissance that occurred during the Muromachi period and its role in pushed garden design to a new level.


  • Services of a docent


  • Meals and drinks

  • Personal expenses

  • Tips and gratuities

  • Optional activity costs

Please Note

  • Children below 12 years old are not permitted on this tour.

  • Minimum of 2 passengers per booking is required. Private walking seminars are available for solo travelers.

  • Tour will be operated as a guaranteed Small Group Tour with a maximum of 6 guests.

  • Walks are held rain or shine with some variations to accommodate the weather.

Cancellation Policy

  • 15% Cancellation Fee (85% reimbursement): 4 days prior to date of activity.
  • 100% Cancellation Fee (no reimbursement): 3 days or less prior to date of activity.

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