Myoshin-ji (妙心寺) is one of the three largest temple complex in Kyoto, together with Tofuku-ji and Daitoku-ji. While other temple complexes will boost 30 sub-temples at some points in their distant history, Myoshin-ji still has more than 40 today! This is also a very geeky temple for it was founded in 1337 :-D
So in 1337, Shuho Myocho, founder of Daitoku-ji, gave Emperor Hanazono a recommendation to continue his practice of Buddhism under his disciple Kazan, for Myocho was dying. Hanazono then converted an imperial villa into a temple, to be called Shobo-zan Myoshin-ji. After a brief period of control from Nanzen-ji, the Onin war broke out and Myoshin-ji was burned down in 1467. It was rebuilt 10 years later and expanded by buying land from the nearby Ninna-ji (仁和寺) in 1509. It succeeded in roughly keeping that size to this day.
The area in which Myoshin-ji resides is called "Hanazono", but this name does not seem to come from the Emperor Hanazono. The area was a rich district for aristocracy and court members and was well tended with lots of flowers, so people called it the Hanazono (花園, "flower garden"). The name of the emperor came earlier when he started his reign so the two are likely unrelated. The pine-bordered alleys within Myoshin-ji remain a pleasant area to stroll to this day.
Few buildings of the whole complex belong to the main temple, but they are easy to spot: they're in the centre ;) From the south gate, a string of buildings and gates lead to the main hall: first the front gate, then the "Hojochi" (pond with bridge), then the "Sanmon" (triple gate), then two halls (Butsuden and Hatto) and finally the main hall (Hojo). All the other buildings are sub-temples, of which several be visited. Myoshin-ji is in fact the temple complex with the greatest number of visitable locations, albeit not all visitable at the same time: some are only open a few days per year, others only once every 10 or more years. Open year-round are Taizo-in (退蔵院), Keishun-in (桂春院) and Daishin-in (大心院). Ryoan-ji (龍安寺), which is technically also a sub-temple of Myoshin-ji, is located further north outside the temple complex. Temples with seasonal openings include the main halls of Myoshin-ji, Daiho-in (大法院), Daishin-in (大心院) and Torin-in (東林院). Three other sub-temples require a reservation. For the other sub-temples, they sometimes open a few days or weeks per year on a voluntary basis. You will have to check a few Japanese web pages to know when to go.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Hōkongō-in 法金剛院 (610m), Omuro Residence 旧邸御室 (810m), Tōji-in 等持院 (960m), Ninna-ji 仁和寺 (960m), Jizō-in 地蔵院 (1.1km)
External links: Website, ウィキペディア, Wikipedia, Wikipédia, Kyoto Navi, Trip Advisor, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, Inside Kyoto, Marutake, そうだ京都
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 右京, Ukyo-ku, 妙心寺, temple, 寺院, 仏閣, Myoshin-ji