Daigoji (çí) is an important temple of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism and a designated world heritage site. The large temple complex stands southeast of central Kyoto and includes an entire mountainside. The main temple grounds are located at the base of the mountain and are connected via a hiking trail to several more temple buildings around the summit.
Upon entering the main temple grounds, visitors will first come across the Sanboin, the elegant former residence of the head priest, which was originally constructed in 1115. The current building, along with its outstanding landscape garden dates to 1598 when it was reconstructed and expanded for Toyotomi Hideyoshi's famous cherry blossom viewing party held here. The building remains an excellent example of extravagant Momoyama architecture and should not be missed.
A short walk further into the temple grounds gets you to the Shimo Daigo (Lower Daigo) area where most of the temple's other important buildings stand. Among them is the Kondo Hall or main hall, which was originally built in 926. The current building was relocated to Daigoji in 1599 and stores the temple's main object of worship, a seated statue of the Yakushi Buddha.
Also in the Shimo Daigo area stands a 38 meter tall, five storied pagoda that is Kyoto's oldest verified building. Built in 951, the pagoda is the only structure to survive the fires that have repeatedly destroyed Daigoji over the centuries. And last but not least there is the Bentendo Hall, probably Daigoji's most photographed building, next to a pond in the very back of the Shimo Daigo area. The hall is especially beautiful around late November when it is surrounded by autumn colors.
Also located on the main temple grounds at the base of the mountain is the Reihokan Museum, an elegant treasure house, which preserves and displays the temple's large collection of historic documents and art objects, including statues and paintings. Some of the temple's most impressive weeping cherry trees stand in the museum's garden and are usually in bloom during early April.
In the very back of the lower temple grounds, not far from the Bentendo Hall, is the trailhead to the Kami Daigo (Upper Daigo), Daigoji's original temple grounds, which are located around the summit of the mountain. It takes about one hour to climb the steep trail through the forest. Those who separate themselves from the crowds and make the climb are rewarded by more wooden halls set along the quiet forested mountainside and views over the plain as far as Osaka on clear days.
Daigoji Temple is located a 15 minute walk or short bus ride by community bus number 4 (210 yen, every 30 minutes) from Daigo Station along the Tozai Subway Line. From Kyoto Station, take a JR train to Yamashina Station (5 minutes, 190 yen) and transfer to the Tozai Subway Line (8 minutes, 260 yen). Alternatively, take Keihan Bus number 22 or 22A from Yamashina Station to Daigoji (20 minutes, 220 yen, departures every 20 minutes).
Keihan Bus number 301 connects Kyoto Station (Hachijo side, bus stop H4 in front of the Hotel Keihan Kyoto Grande) with Daigoji once or twice per hour. The one way trip takes 30 minutes and costs 270 yen.
Sanboin, Shimo Daigo and Reihokan Museum (lower grounds)
800 yen (during the rest of the year)