Myōshin-ji is a separate world within Kyoto, a walled-off complex of temples and subtemples that invites lazy strolling. The subtemple of Taizō-in here contains one of the city’s more interesting gardens. Myōshin-ji dates from 1342 and belongs to the Rinzai school. There are 47 subtemples, but only a few are open to the public.
From the north gate, follow the broad stone avenue flanked by rows of temples to the southern part of the complex. The eponymous Myōshin-ji temple is roughly in the middle of the complex. Your entry fee entitles you to a tour of several of the buildings of the temple. The ceiling of the Hattō (Lecture Hall) here features Tanyū Kanō’s unnerving painting Unryūzu (meaning ‘Dragon glaring in eight directions’). Your guide will invite you to stand directly beneath the dragon; doing so makes it appear that it’s spiralling up or down.
Shunkō-in, a subtemple of Myōshin-ji, offers regular 60-minute zazen (seated Zen meditation) sessions for foreigners with English explanations for ¥1500, or 90 minutes for ¥2500, including matcha (powdered green tea) and a sweet. This is highly recommended.