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Home - Travel - Sightseeing Guide - Kansai - Kyoto - Northern Kyoto
Daitokuji Temple 
# 24   of 59 most visited
sights in Kyoto

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Daitokuji (哿) is a large walled temple complex in northern Kyoto and the head temple of the Rinzai sect's Daitokuji school of Japanese Zen Buddhism. The complex consists of nearly two dozen subtemples and is one of the best places in Japan to see a wide variety of Zen gardens and to experience Zen culture and architecture.

Daitokuji was founded in 1319 and like most of Kyoto suffered severe damage during the Onin War (1467-1477). After its reconstruction, the temple grew into a center of the tea ceremony and became associated with tea master Sen no Rikyu, as well as the warlords Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, both of whom were fond tea ceremony practitioners. Oda Nobunaga's grave is located at Sokenin, one of Daitokuji's subtemples that is not regularly open to the public.

Daitokuji's main buildings (the Sanmon Gate, Butsuden Hall, Hatto Hall and Hojo Residence) are lined up on the east side of the temple grounds according to the classical layout of a Zen monastery. They are not usually open to the public, however visitors may view into the interior of the Butsuden.

The main buildings are surrounded by nearly two dozen subtemples, many of which were added to the complex by feudal lords from across Japan. Four of the subtemples are regularly open to the public, while some of the others have temporary special openings.

The interior of the Butsuden Hall

The most celebrated among the subtemples is Daisenin, the head of the North School of Daitokuji and open to the public around the year. Founded in 1509, it incorporates the oldest surviving example of an alcove (tokonoma), an important architectural feature still found in contemporary tatami rooms today, as well as some highly valued sliding doors (fusuma).

Daisenin also features beautiful rock gardens, which wrap around the temple building and are considered among of the best examples of their kind. One of the gardens is designed to resemble a Chinese landscape painting with vertical stones representing towering mountains and islands divided by white sand waterfalls and streams which appear to flow through to the temple's other gardens before emptying out into an expansive ocean of white gravel.

Daisenin

Another important subtemple open to the public is Ryogenin, the headquarters of the South School of Daitokuji. It was constructed in 1502 by the lord of Noto Province on the Noto Peninsula in current day Ishikawa Prefecture. The temple's main building, the former residence of Ryogenin's head priest, is designed in a typical Zen style and is said to be the oldest building standing in Daitokuji.

Ryogenin features as many as five different dry landscape gardens on each side of its main building. The largest of them consists of a field of raked white gravel representing the universe, and islands of rocks and moss representing a crane and a turtle, symbols of longevity and health commonly found in Japanese gardens. The temple also displays sliding doors (fusuma) painted with images of dragons and hermits, as well as the oldest gun in Japan, a Tanegashima Musket made in 1583.

Ryogenin

Kotoin is another interesting and popular subtemple that is open year around. It was built in 1601 by Hosokawa Tadaoki, a successful commander who fought for all three unifiers of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, and took part in many of the famous battles and campaigns of the era. He and his wife are buried at Kotoin, along with Izumo no Okuni, the founder of kabuki.

Kotoin is famous for its maple trees which form a vaulted canopy over the temple approach. The maples are also found extensively throughout Kotoin's tea garden and are used with sparse simplicity in the temple's tranquil moss garden. The leaves are particularly spectacular around the second half of November when they usually reach the peak of their autumnal beauty.

Kotoin

Despite being the smallest of the regularly open subtemples, Zuihoin has an equally rich history as the other subtemples of Daitokuji. The temple was built in 1535 by a warlord from Kyushu, who later converted to Christianity and became known as a Christian Daimyo (Warlord).

The temple's main garden features gravel raked in distinct, high peaked patterns evoking the image of rough seas, and is set with islands of sharp stones and moss that appear off in the distance. The garden to the rear of the main building has stones laid out in the pattern of a crucifix.

Zuihoin

Any Questions? Ask them in our question forum.

How to get there
From Kyoto Station

Daitokuji is located next to Daitokuji-mae bus stop (45 minutes, 230 yen by bus numbers 101, 205 or 206 from Kyoto Station) or a five minute walk from Kitaoji-Horikawa bus stop (30 minutes, 230 yen by bus number 9 from Kyoto Station). Alternatively, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Station (13 minutes, 260 yen) from where you can reach the temple in a short bus ride (230 yen) or a 15 minute walk.

How to get to and around Kyoto

Hours and Fees
Daisenin
Hours:9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:30 from December to February)
Closed:No closing days
Admission:400 yen

Ryogenin
Hours:9:00 to 16:30
Closed:No closing dates
Admission:350 yen

Kotoin
Hours:9:00 to 16:00
Closed:Small number of irregular closing days
Admission:400 yen

Zuihoin
Hours:9:00 to 17:00
Closed:No closing days
Admission:400 yen

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Hotels and Ryokan
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Tours and Packages
JR Tokai Tours
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Various tours and travel packages for Kyoto and surroundings.

User Ratings
Ratings for Daitokuji Temple:
japan-guide.com Rating:
  outstanding  
User Rating (by 353 users):
81/100
  recommended

Best rated sights nationwide (out of 786):
347.  Minoo Park (Osaka)   81/100
348.  Okinawa World (Okinawa Island)   81/100
349.  Shibu Onsen (Yamanouchi)   81/100
350.  Chureito Pagoda (Fuji Five Lakes)   81/100
351.  Yamaguchi Daijingu (Yamaguchi)   81/100
352.  Daitokuji Temple (Kyoto)   81/100
353.  Daishi Kyokai (Mount Koya)   81/100
354.  Shiroi Koibito Park (Sapporo)   81/100
355.  Nakano Broadway (Tokyo)   81/100
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Most visited sights nationwide (out of 913):
99.  Tenryuji Temple (Kyoto)   785
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101.  Odori Park (Sapporo)   783
102.  Futarasan Shrine (Nikko)   767
103.  Owakudani (Hakone)   758
104.  Daitokuji Temple (Kyoto)   754
105.  Lake Chuzenji (Nikko)   730
106.  Mount Aso (Aso)   728
107.  Old Town (Takayama)   728
108.  Sakae (Nagoya)   721

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English Links
Daitokuji
Official English website of the Joint Council for Rinzai and Obaku Zen Buddhism.

Japanese Links
Daitokuji
Official website of the Joint Council for Rinzai and Obaku Zen Buddhism.
Daisenin
Official website.

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