Tofukuji Temple is just close enough to the famous Fushimi-Inari Taisha to be frequently overlooked by tourists. Except for the autumn season, when it is a popular place to view foliage, this temple is usually free of visitors and thus perfect for those seeking a serene spot in the southeast of Kyoto.
You can reach the temple by train.
From Kyoto Station, take the JR Nara Line or Keihan Line to Tofukuji Station. It's a 10-minute walk from there.
Founded in 1236, Tofukuji is one of the major Zen temples of Kyoto and has a lot to offer visitors, including 24 sub-temples. Many of the buildings in the complex, including the zendo, or meditation hall, date back all the way to the Muromachi period (1338-1573) and exemplify the rarely seen Zen architecture particular to that time.
Rebuilt in 1425 after a fire destroyed its predecessors, the grand San-mon entrance gate is the oldest Zen gate in Japan.
Tofukuji has four gardens, all built in the 1930s. Each faces a different direction and is unique in its own way, made up of different combinations of gravel, stone, moss, and trees.
The northern garden, for example, is notable for its neat checkerboard pattern made up of alternating stones and square patches of moss. A deck behind the gardens offers a view of the Tsuten-kyo or Bridge to Heaven, which crosses a maple-filled valley.
Tofukuji holds Zen meditation sessions in Japanese about four times a month for beginners. Find out more at the temple; you'll probably need a Japanese speaker to help you inquire.
If you're in the area, don't skip Fushimi Inari Taisha. It's just one stop away on the JR Nara and Keihan lines.