I visited Kita-in temple over several occasions; the first time I visited it was more on an exploring mission as I knew I would be revisiting the next day. While doing my recon I was approached by one of the gardeners who explained to me the importance of the Edo Castle remnants and the fact that the ticket price also included access to the Gohyaku Rakan, the 538 very personalized statues of the disciples of Buddha carved out of rock.
The gardener turned out to be a really nice chap willing to answer questions and passing on information that wasn’t to be found in the guides. During my subsequent visits I kept bumping into him and was allowed to revisit the statues at several occasions to check on details he had provided us. Very cool!
Some of the statues carry hats or gourds, others take a typical pose or have an animal with them. All animals of the Asian zodiac are represented (the dragon twice). Find the statue with the animal that corresponds to your birth year, give it a 1 or 5 yen coin and rub its head for luck.
The whole of the temple area is very pleasant with some lovely chances for photography.