Kodai-ji in Kyoto
Kodai-ji is another temple just down the mountainside street from Kiyomizu-dera and in the Higashiyama District, talked about in the previous post. Kodai-ji is worth a visit because it offers a few experiences which not every run of the mill temple in Japan has to offer. A large zen garden (with raked stones) is worth seeing, at least once when you’re in Japan. The other garden the temple has to offer is a “tsukiyama style garden”…which from what I can tell seem to resemble normal non-flower gardens: rocks, ponds, hills, trees, done, though the 16th century landscape artist who designed the gardens was a fairly big deal. There are two tea houses in the complex, a santcuary with a small shrine with impressive lacquer work (the finest lacquer work of the period, actually, which incorporates designs in gold; unfortunately you’re not allowed to take pictures inside the buildings), and several other buildings, including a mausoleum. The artwork and gardens are absolutely worth seeing and talking a stroll through, and most of the buildings in the complex you can actually go inside and walk around in, which is a nice change from most historic sites in Japan, in which most of the building is only viewable, and not walkable. (You will need to take off your shoes to enter these buildings).
The buildings date from different times, because of several fires over the years. The oldest are from the early 17th century, and the most recent was rebuilt in the early 20th century. Kodai-ji is named after a noble woman, Kita-no-Mandokoro (her honorary name was Kodai-in) who became a Buddhist nun after her husband died.
More information on Kodai-hi is available here, including hours, admission fees, and a map!