Two dozen temples can be found in this walled compound, a holy place for the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The original temple was founded in 1319, but fires during the Onin Civil War destroyed it in 1468. Most buildings you see today were built under the patronage of Hideyoshi Toyotomi in the late 16th century. Several of the smaller temples are well worth exploring.
Daisen-in is best known for its excellent landscape paintings by the renowned Soami (1465–1523), as well as the famed Muromachi-era garden, attributed to Soko Kogaku (1465–1548). Circling the building, the moody rock-and-gravel garden depicts the flow of life in the movement of a river, swirling around rocks, over a waterfall, and finally into an ocean of nothingness. Ryogen-in has five small gardens of gravel, stone, and moss. The A-Un garden includes a stone with ripples emanating from it, thought to symbolize the cycle of life, from the "a" sound said at birth to the "un" said at death, encompassing
all in between.
Koto-in is famous for its long, maple-tree-lined approach and the single stone lantern central to the main garden. Zuiho-in has Hidden Christian roots, and its rock garden suggests an abstract cross; a statue of Mary is evidently buried under the stone lantern in an adjacent garden.
There are several ways to get to the temple complex from downtown Kyoto. Take the Karasuma subway to Kita-oji Station, where any bus going west along Kita-oji-dori will take you to the Daitokuji-mae stop. Buses 12, 204, and 206 make the same stop.