Eikando is a temple especially famous for brilliant foliage in the fall, made more magical by its evening illumination. This period draws huge crowds, but visit at any other time of year and you'll have the place to yourself, free to explore the grounds.
The temple is located just south of the Philosopher's Path in central Higashiyama. Its grounds are expansive, with many buildings connected by covered walkways.
Eikando was a gift from a court noble in the Heian period (794-1185) to a Buddhist priest
Eikando is also known by three other names: Zenrin-ji, Shoju-raigo-san, and Muryosu-in
Eikando is easily accessed from JR Kyoto Station by train and a short walk.
From JR Kyoto Station, take the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line to Karasuma Oike Station. Transfer there to the Tozai Subway Line going toward Rokujizo to Keage Station. It's a 15-minute walk from there.
Eikando feels like an old villa, and was once exactly that, having belonged to a nobleman who gave it to a Buddhist priest in 853. The worldly pursuits of leisure and natural beauty took on a spiritual dimension as the villa was adapted to its new purpose.
Eikando is filled with various works of art, the most notable of which is a statue of the Amida Buddha with his head turned to one side rather than facing forward as he is usually portrayed. Legend has it that a head monk was performing a ritual for the statue when it turned to face him and spoke to him.
Taho-to Pagoda is located up a steep flight of stairs above the temple complex, and offers a great view of the city below.
One highlight of Eikando is Hojo Pond, which is surrounded by a scenic garden. In the middle of the pond is a small island with a quaint shrine built on it.
A leisurely visit to Eikando will take an hour or two. You can easily stay longer, though, especially if you enjoy the aesthetic elements of Buddhism.