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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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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Hours and Fees

Daisenin

Hours

Closed

Admission

Ryogenin

Hours

Closed

Admission

Kotoin

Hours

Closed

Admission

Zuihoin

Hours

Closed

Admission

Hotels around Kyoto

Top rated in Kyoto
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    • 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.
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    • 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.
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    • IMAYA Hostel Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      Attractively situated in the centre of Kyoto, IMAYA Hostel Kyoto features air-conditioned rooms, a bar, free WiFi and a shared lounge. The property is situated less than 1 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, a 16-minute walk from Nijo Castle and 2.4 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen, a concierge service and luggage storage for guests. All guest rooms at the hostel are fitted with a flat-screen TV and a kitchenette. The rooms have a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. Kyoto Imperial Palace is 2.9 km from IMAYA Hostel Kyoto, while Heian Shrine is 3.1 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Guest House Oumi
      Budget-friendly
      Well set in the centre of Kyoto, Guest House Oumi provides air-conditioned rooms, a shared lounge, free WiFi and a garden. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation offers a shared kitchen and room service for guests. All units include a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. A continental breakfast is available daily at the guest house. Nijo Castle is less than 1 km from guesthouseoumi, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie
      Luxury
      Ideally situated in the Shimogyo Ward district of Kyoto, Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie is situated 1.3 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, 1.9 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2.3 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel has family rooms. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms offering a wardrobe, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. At Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandere the rooms have bed linen and towels. An American breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation. Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie offers a terrace. Shoren-in Temple is 2.7 km from the hotel, while Nijo Castle is 2.8 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandere.
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    • 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.
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    • Kyono Mori Yurinsha
      Mid-range
      Boasting a bar and views of city, Kyono Mori Yurinsha is set in Kyoto, 1.5 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, room service and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi. The property is 2.2 km from the city centre and 2.6 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a microwave, a kettle, a shower, slippers and a desk. The rooms feature a private bathroom, a hairdryer and bed linen. Guests at the inn can enjoy a ? la carte or an American breakfast. Kyono Mori Yurinsha provides an ironing service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Kiyomizu-dera Temple, TKP Garden City Kyoto and Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 47 km from Kyono Mori Yurinsha.
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    • Yadoya Kikokuso
      Mid-range
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    • Ryokan Tori
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      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.
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    • Yadoya Manjiro
      Mid-range
      Built in the Sukiya-style of around 1900, Yadoya Manjiro features Japanese-style rooms with relaxing garden views. The inn is a 5-minute walk from Kiyomizu-dera Temple and offers concierge services and a shared lounge. Free WiFi is also available. Tranquil rooms feature low furniture and traditional futon bedding on tatami (woven-straw) floor, paper screens and Japanese art decorations. They are fitted with a fridge and a safe. The Japanese-style inn is a 1-minute stroll from a number of restaurants and a 5-minute walk from a convenience shop or bus stop. JR Kyoto Station is a 10-minute taxi ride.
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