For anyone with the slightest fondness for Japanese gardens, don't miss this network of lanes dotted with atmospheric Zen temples. Daitoku-ji, the main temple here, serves as headquarters for the Rinzai Daitoku-ji school of Zen Buddhism. It's not usually open to the public but there are several subtemples with superb carefully raked karen-sensui (dry landscape) gardens well worth making the trip out for. Highlights include Daisen-in, Kōtō-in, Ryōgen-in and Zuihō-in.
Daitoku-ji is on the eastern side of the grounds. It was founded in 1319, burnt down in the next century and rebuilt in the 16th century. The San-mon gate (1589) has a self-carved statue of its erector, the famous tea master Sen no Rikyū, on its 2nd storey.
The Karasuma subway line to Kitaōji Station is the fastest way to get here. From Kitaōji Station, walk west along Kitaōji-dōri for about 15 minutes. You’ll see the temple complex on your right. The main entrance is a bit north of Kitaōji. If you enter from the main gate, which is on the east side of the complex, you'll soon find Daitoku-ji on your right. Alternatively, take bus 205 or 206 from Kyoto Station to the Daitokuji-mae bus stop.