The rocks and raked gravel are meant to symbolize either mountaintops peaking out of the mist, or islands in the ocean. Most historians agree that the rocks were placed by a man named Soami around 1450. It is Japan's most famous "hiri-niwa" (a flat garden, without hills or ponds).
Our favorite rock garden, though, was Kodaiji. A guide explained that although the garden design is usually changed regularly, they decided to leave this design for the whole year, after the earthquake and tsunami. This design depicts two dragons. Dragons are said to be able to hold down, to calm, the earth.
For lunch one day we ate at a traditional noodle shop. We took off our shoes, sat on the tatami (straw) floor, and we were definitely the only Westerners there!
From Kyoto we traveled to Hiroshima - stay tuned for photos of our time there!