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Daikakuji (o) is a large temple in the northern part of Kyoto's Sagano district. It was originally built in the early 800s as the detached palace of Emperor Saga, who thoroughly enjoyed spending time in this calm area on the outskirts of Kyoto. Thirty years after the emperor's death, the palace was converted into a temple and has since been one of the highest ranked temples of Shingon Buddhism.

Daikakuji played a role in several significant historical events. A succession of retired emperors reigned from here, and in the 12th century the temple hosted peace talks that reunited the Northern and Southern Imperial Courts after 50 years of civil war. Daikakuji is also featured in the Tale of Genji, the first novel in Japanese literature. Today, the temple is one of the best places to still feel the ancient court atmosphere described in the novel and is often used for filming historical dramas.

Daikakuji is made up of several buildings connected by elevated wooden walkways. The covered corridors, like the "nightingale floors" of Nijojo's Ninomaru Palace, squeak quietly as you walk over them. Many of the buildings are decorated with painted sliding doors (fusuma) by the famous Kano school.

One of Daikakuji's most important treasures is a copy of the Heart Sutra that was handwritten by Emperor Saga at the instruction of Kobo Daishi. The sutra supposedly ended a mysterious plague that was sweeping the country during the Heian Period. It is kept in the octagonal Heart Sutra Hall and exhibited to the public once every 60 years. Nearby is the Reihokan, a small museum that displays special exhibitions of the temple's treasures in spring and autumn.

Next door to the temple is Osawa Pond, a 1200 year old man-made body of water that is the oldest and last surviving (albeit incomplete) example of a Shinden-style garden. The pond was originally built for Emperor Saga's detached palace, and was used to throw elaborate parties and for recreational activities such as boating, fishing and moon viewing.

Several Buddhist statues, a small shrine and the Shingyo Pagoda, a two tiered, tahoto-style pagoda erected to commemorate the 1150th anniversary of Emperor Saga writing the Heart Sutra, populate the garden grounds and are connected by a network of walking paths. Visitors can walk around the garden, visit the buildings and enjoy the natural scenery around the pond. The garden is especially popular during the cherry blossom (late March to early April) and autumn color (late November) seasons.

Getting there and around

Daikakuji is a 15 minute walk north from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station (15 minutes, 240 yen one way from Kyoto Station) or a 25 minute walk north of Keifuku Arashiyama Station. Alternatively, take bus number 91 from Saga-Arashiyama Station (5 minutes, 230 yen, every 20 minutes) or bus number 28 from central Arashiyama (10 minutes, 230 yen, every 20 minutes).

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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.
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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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    • Mitsuki Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      In a prime location in Kyoto, Mitsuki Kyoto offers an Asian breakfast and free WiFi. The property features inner courtyard and quiet street views, and is 600 metres from Kyoto International Manga Museum. The accommodation features full-day security, and luggage storage for guests. The ryokan provides certain units with garden views, and the units are equipped with a private bathroom. Guests can enjoy a vegetarian or a vegan breakfast, which can also be delivered to your room. The area is popular for cycling, and bike hire is available at this 2-star ryokan. Guests can also relax in the garden. Nijo Castle is 1.1 km from the ryokan, while Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall is 1.8 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 46 km from Mitsuki Kyoto.
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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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    • 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.
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    • 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.
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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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    • 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.
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    • Yado Kiramachi
      Luxury
      Situated conveniently in Kyoto, Yado Kiramachi offers an Asian breakfast and free WiFi. The air-conditioned accommodation is 600 metres from Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. Certain units in the ryokan have private entrance and are equipped with desk and wardrobe. The units have a private bathroom, while selected rooms will provide you with a balcony and others also have a garden view. At the ryokan, some units are soundproof. A bar can be found on-site. Guests can relax in the garden at the property. Kyoto International Manga Museum is 1.3 km from the ryokan, while Gion Shijo Station is 1.6 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from Yado Kiramachi.
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    • Guesthouse HANA Nishijin
      Mid-range
      Guesthouse HANA Kyoto is located in Kyoto, 300 metres from Kitano Tenmangu and 1.2 km from Kinkaku-ji Temple. A simple complimentary breakfast service is provided for guests. Bathroom facilities are shared. Guesthouse HANA Kyoto features free WiFi throughout the property. There is a shared kitchen and a common area with a TV at the property. Nijo Castle is 2.1 km from Guesthouse HANA Kyoto, while Imperial Palace is 2.3 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from Guesthouse HANA Kyoto.
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    • Hotel Muso
      Mid-range
      Well located in the centre of Kyoto, Hotel Muso provides American breakfast and free WiFi throughout the property. Popular points of interest nearby include Kiyomizu-dera Temple, TKP Garden City Kyoto and Kyoto International Manga Museum. The property is non-smoking and is located less than 1 km from Gion Shijo Station. 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. The accommodation offers 3-star accommodation with a hot tub. Popular points of interest near Hotel Muso include Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall, Sanjusangen-do Temple and Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from the hotel.
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