Kinkaku-ji gets its name from the “Golden Pavilion” with its top two floors covered in gold leaf. It is formally known as Rokuon-ji (Deer Park Temple). The surrounding gardens were designed to resemble the Western Paradise of Amida Buddha. The beautiful stroll gardens wrap above the pavilion along a small stream that flows into Kyouko-chi (Mirror Pond). It is also the home of the Sekka-tei teahouse.
Koke-dera, or officially “Saiho-ji” (Moss Temple) was founded by Buddhist priest Gyoki and redone by Zen Priest and well-known garden designer Muso Kokushi (Soseki) in 1339. Although it is known today as the Moss Temple because of its 120 species of moss, it was not planned this way. Through centuries of wars, destruction, floods, reconstruction and neglect, nature finally claimed Saiho-ji, and the mosses slowly took hold, converting what was left of the garden into a beauty of nature. The garden is more commonly known as the Moss Temple and is home to 120 types of moss.
Koto-in was established in 1601 by Tadaoki Hosokawa. He was a famous warrior under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, studied Zen under the Daitoku-ji abbot, Seigan, and was a distinguished disciple of tea master, Sen no Rikyu. When Rikyu was ordered to commit suicide, he left many treasured possessions to Hosokawa. Koto-in is home to two famous tea houses, Shoko-ken (built by Hosokawa in 1628) and Horai. There is a famous wash basin made from a stone brought from the Imperial Palace in Korea.
Ninomaru Palace was built in 1603 as the official residence of Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. It is a compound of grand buildings and many gardens surrounded by stone walls, thick gates and a moat. The castle was given to the Imperial Family in 1867 and named Nijo Detached Palace (Nijo-jo).
Tenryu-ji (Dragon of the Sky Temple) was established in 1339 by Ashikaga Takauji on the site once held as a residence for Emperor Gosaga and Kameyama. Prior to that, Japan’s first Zen temple, Danrin-ji, was founded by Empress Tachibana no Kachiko. The beautiful Sogenchi stroll garden was created in 1345 by Muso Soseki, the temple founder, and is designated a Special Historic Site and a Special Historic Scenic Area. Mount Arashiyama can be seen in the background. It is formally known as Shiseizen-ji, the head temple of the Tenryū branch of Rinzai Zen Sect.