Home
Back

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 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 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.

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 in today's 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 from 1583.

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 theater.

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 reach the peak of their autumnal beauty usually around the second half of November.

Despite being the smallest of the regularly open subtemples, Zuihoin has an equally rich history as the other subtemples. 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. The garden to the rear of the main building has stones laid out in the pattern of a crucifix.

Getting there and around

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

Closed

Admission

Ryogenin

Hours

Closed

Admission

Kotoin

Hours

Closed

Admission

Zuihoin

Hours

Closed

Admission

Hotels around Kyoto

    • Arashiyama Hanaikada
      A little, superior ryokan right near Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama. Free transfer from JR station. Private bath and open-air baths available. 5min walk to the Bamboo Groves.
      View site
      Sponsored
Top rated in Kyoto
Budget:
    • Ryokan Mugen (Adult Only)
      Luxury
      Mugen is a property that was built 160 years ago, situated in Kyoto, 1 km from Nijo Castle. Every room at Mugen features an en suite shower room, toilet, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Free WiFi is available throughout the entire property. You will find a shared lounge on site and a bar at the annex building. The ryokan also offers bike hire. Imperial Palace is 1.1 km from Mugen, while Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is 1.6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
      View on Booking.com
      9.9Booking.com
    • Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Kyoto, this traditional Japanese guest house features free Wi-Fi and a free public computer. Shichijo Onmae bus stop is 3 minutesf walk away. A seating area and shared bathroom are provided with each room at Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS. Free toiletries are provided and blankets are available upon request. Select rooms have a garden view. A shared living area and bicycles are available for guestsf use during their stay at this Kyoto Guesthouse Compass. Access to the shared kitchen is available upon request. The guest house is 4.5 km from Imperial Palace and 2.2 km from Kyoto Station. Nijo Castle and Toji Castle are within a 30 minutesf bus ride away.
      View on Booking.com
      9.8Booking.com
    • Ryokan Tori
      Mid-range
      Ryokan Tori is located in Kyoto, 2 km from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. The property is around 2.3 km from Nijo Castle and Kyoto Imperial Palace. The property is 3.2 km from Kinkaku-ji Temple and 3.7 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. All guest rooms in the ryokan are fitted with a kettle. Each room has a shared bathroom, while selected rooms are fitted with a balcony and others also offer a garden view. All rooms will provide guests with a fridge. Guests at tori can enjoy an Asian breakfast. Heian Shrine is 5 km from the accommodation. Itami Airport is 50 km from the property.
      View on Booking.com
      9.8Booking.com
    • Guesthouse Engawa
      Budget-friendly
      Guesthouse Engawa offers accommodation in Kyoto. Guests can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of Kyoto in their rooms. Each comes with a flat-screen TV, and an electric kettle will be provided upon request. Bathroom facilities are shared with other guests. Free toiletries and hairdryers are also available. There is luggage storage space at the property. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 600 metres from Guesthouse Engawa, while Heian Shrine is 2.4 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
      View on Booking.com
      9.7Booking.com
    • Gallery Nozawa Inn
      Budget-friendly
      Gallery Nozawa Inn offers accommodation in Kyoto, 25 minutes on foot from JR Kyoto Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. Every room includes a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. Each room is equipped with a private toilet, and bathrooms are shared. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hairdryer. There is luggage storage space at the property. Guests can sample Japanese-style breakfast featuring seasonal ingredients. There is a public bathhouse located a 10-minute walk away. Nijo Castle is 2.4 km from Gallery Nozawa Inn, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.4 km from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 36 km away.
      View on Booking.com
      9.7Booking.com
    • Kyonoyado Gekkoan
      Luxury
      Set in the Nakagyo Ward district in Kyoto, Kyonoyado Gekkoan offers an equipped accommodation with an balcony and free WiFi. The property is 1.1 km from Nijo Castle. This holiday home comes with a kitchenette with a microwave and a toaster, a flat-screen TV, a seating area and a bathroom with a bath. A vegetarian or continental breakfast is available daily at the property. Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.1 km from the holiday home. Osaka Itami Airport is 37 km from the property.
      View on Booking.com
      9.7Booking.com
    • Kyono Mori Yurinsha
      Mid-range
      Featuring 3-star accommodation, Kyono Mori Yurinsha is set in Kyoto, 1.7 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple and 1 km from Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, room service and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi. The property is 1.1 km from Gion Shijo Station, and within 1.7 km of the city centre. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, free toiletries and a desk. Featuring a private bathroom with a bath and a hairdryer, rooms at the inn also have a city view. At Kyono Mori Yurinsha all rooms have bed linen and towels. An ? la carte, continental or vegetarian breakfast can be enjoyed at the property. The accommodation provides an ironing service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Popular points of interest near Kyono Mori Yurinsha include Kiyomizu-dera Temple, TKP Garden City Kyoto and Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from the inn.
      View on Booking.com
      9.6Booking.com
    • Yado Kiramachi
      Luxury
      Featuring a garden, a terrace as well as a bar, Yado Kiramachi is set in the centre of Kyoto, 600 metres from Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall. The property is around 1.6 km from Gion Shijo Station, 2.1 km from Nijo Castle and 2.2 km from Kyoto Station. The property is non-smoking and is located 1.3 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. Featuring a private bathroom, rooms at the ryokan also have free WiFi, while selected rooms will provide you with a balcony. An Asian breakfast is available every morning at Yado Kiramachi. TKP Garden City Kyoto is 2.3 km from the accommodation, while Samurai Kembu Kyoto is 2.5 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from Yado Kiramachi.
      View on Booking.com
      9.6Booking.com
    • Guest House Oumi
      Budget-friendly
      Well set in the centre of Kyoto, Guest House Oumi provides air-conditioned rooms, a garden, free WiFi and a shared lounge. This 2-star guest house offers a shared kitchen and room service. The property is non-smoking and is located 1.2 km from Nijo Castle. All units include a shared bathroom, free toiletries and bed linen. A continental breakfast is available daily at the guest house. Guest House Oumi offers a terrace. Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km from the accommodation, while Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall is 2.9 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 46 km from Guest House Oumi.
      View on Booking.com
      9.5Booking.com
    • Hotel Muso
      Mid-range
      Well located in Kyoto, Hotel Muso provides 3-star accommodation close to Gion Shijo Station and Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall. This 3-star hotel offers a concierge service and luggage storage space. Providing free WiFi throughout the property, the non-smoking hotel features a hot tub. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms with a desk, a coffee machine, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. Rooms come with a kettle, while selected rooms come with a kitchen with a microwave, a minibar and a stovetop. At Hotel Muso each room has bed linen and towels. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Sanjusangen-do Temple, Samurai Kembu Kyoto and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from Hotel Muso.
      View on Booking.com
      9.5Booking.com