Andrew Marvell about summed it up for me (although in a different context). Were I a Zen Monk who could wake, sit on the outskirts of the garden and contemplate the if-ness of being for free and for hours on end, I'd have no complaint. Considering the considerable amount of time, energy and more than 400 Yen to get there and the 500 Yen to gain admission, however, I expect a whole lot more from a sight than what I saw.
Were it free, were it a mere 200 Yen or so, I'd probably have also have no complaints. But to have the temerity to charge 500 Yen knowing people have already come a great distance at no inconsequential expense to offer up a minimalist offering such as this, then call a small path with (granted interesting) evergreens leading to a simple, lily-padded lake a "landscape garden" strikes me as a bit cynical and exploitive.
I thought monks were supposed to be in search of enlightenment through the surrendering of desires. They seem to desire a princely sum per head for a small rock garden and an un-landscaped pond.
Want a Zen experience where you'll get a whole lot more bang for your 500 Yen entrance fee? Skip this place and head to Ginkakuji. A truly sculpted and meticulously maintained garden where you'll know you saw Japanese artistry and Zen at work (instead of worrying that you'll be indentified as not "hip" if you don't "get it"). Trust me, you likely won't regret it.
It's not a bad sight, it's an over-rated and over-priced one.
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