Ryuanji is a Buddhist temple located in Minō Park, just north of Osaka.
The temple itself lies about a 25 minute walk from the park entrance, on the path that leads to Minō Falls (one of Japan’s most beautiful waterfalls, and the reason many people visit Minō Park).
Originally founded in 650 by an ascetic monk named En no Gyoja, Ryuanji is also the home to one of the oldest statues of Benzaiten (the goddess of music, fortune, and knowledge) in Japan. Although originally known as Minō-dera, the temple is now known as Ryuanji. It has been a functioning Buddhist temple continually since the 7th century.
Although I didn’t have the chance to see the Benzaiten statue the day I visited, I did spend time on the temple grounds, appreciating the architecture and the exterior statues, including this lantern (toro):
Which features a dragon and three familiar monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) carved in relief around its base:
I also appreciated the lichen-encrusted guardians watching over the temple entrance:
Like many temple guardians in Japan, they were simultaneously familiar and unique:
Although the temple is fairly small compared with some of the enormous precincts in Japan’s major cities, Ryuanji is a lovely, quiet place to rest and meditate, and I’ll definitely visit again, the next time I’m in the Osaka area.