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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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    • 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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    • 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 1.2 km from Guest House Oumi, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 49 km from the accommodation.
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    • Hotel Muso
      Mid-range
      Well located in the Shimogyo Ward district of Kyoto, Hotel Muso is located less than 1 km from Gion Shijo Station, a 10-minute walk from Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall and 1.8 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple. This 3-star hotel offers a concierge service and luggage storage space. The accommodation provides a hot tub, free WiFi throughout the property and family rooms. The rooms in the hotel are fitted with a coffee machine. Each room has a kettle and a private bathroom with a bidet and slippers, while selected rooms come with a kitchen equipped with a stovetop. Guest rooms will provide guests with air conditioning, a safety deposit box and a flat-screen TV. Popular points of interest near Hotel Muso include Samurai Kembu Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and TKP Garden City Kyoto. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Kyono Mori Yurinsha
      Mid-range
      Set in Kyoto, 1.1 km from Gion Shijo Station, Kyono Mori Yurinsha features views of the city. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, room service and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi. The property is close to popular attractions like TKP Garden City Kyoto, Samurai Kembu Kyoto and Kyoto Station. 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 continental or a ? la carte 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 Sanjusangen-do Temple, Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from Kyono Mori Yurinsha.
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    • Glanz Kei Kyoto Station
      Luxury
      Offering air-conditioned rooms in the Minami Ward district of Kyoto, Glanz Kei Kyoto Station is 1.1 km from Kyoto Station. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel has family rooms. At the hotel, the rooms include a desk, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, bed linen and towels. At Glanz Kei Kyoto Station, all rooms are equipped with a seating area. The accommodation provides a laundry service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. TKP Garden City Kyoto is 1.1 km from Glanz Kei Kyoto Station, while Sanjusangen-do Temple is 2.1 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from the hotel.
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    • Ryokan Shimizu
      Budget-friendly
      About a 7-minute walk from JR Kyoto Train Station and a 3-minute walk to Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple, Ryokan Shimizu is a non-smoking property that provides air-conditioned Japanese rooms with free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom. Rental bicycles are available at an additional charge. Guests at Shimizu Ryokan can experience traditional Japanese-style sleeping arrangements, with futon bedding on a tatami (woven-straw) floor. Rooms include a TV, a fridge and a tea maker. The en suite bath has toiletries. Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple is a 5-minute walk away, while Gojo Subway Station is a 10-minute walk. Sanjusangen-do Temple is 2 km away. On-site parking is possible, for a fee. Housed in a traditional gmachiya-zukurih building, the hotel includes a small garden and a hot bath that can be reserved for private use.
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    • Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto
      Luxury
      Located in Kyoto, within 400 metres of Kyoto International Manga Museum and 1.7 km of Samurai Kembu Kyoto, Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto provides a garden. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. Certain rooms at the property include a balcony with a garden view. Guest rooms at the hotel come with air conditioning, a seating area, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a safety deposit box and a private bathroom with a bidet, bathrobes and slippers. All rooms are fitted with a kettle, while selected rooms are fitted with a kitchen with a microwave. At Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto each room has bed linen and towels. Guests at the accommodation can enjoy a continental breakfast. Popular points of interest near Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto include Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall, Gion Shijo Station and Nijo Castle. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 49 km from the hotel.
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    • Hostel Sui Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      Offering air-conditioned rooms in the Kamigyo Ward district of Kyoto, Hostel Sui Kyoto is 1.2 km from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. Among the facilities at this property are a shared kitchen and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi throughout the property. Private parking is available on site. The capsule hotel provides certain units that include a safety deposit box, and every room is fitted with a shared bathroom with a bidet and slippers. At Hostel Sui Kyoto the rooms are fitted with bed linen and towels. The accommodation offers a terrace. Kinkaku-ji Temple is 1.8 km from Hostel Sui Kyoto, while Kyoto Imperial Palace is 2.4 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 51 km from the capsule hotel.
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    • Guest House Ga-Jyun
      Budget-friendly
      A 5-minute walk from Higashiyama Subway Station, Guest House Ga-Jyun features free Wi-Fi at the entire property. The wooden terrace has chairs overlooking the garden. Guests can choose to stay in dormitory-style rooms or in private rooms. Bathrooms and toilets are shared. Free-use massage chairs are available at the lounge and a safety deposit box is provided for storing valuable belongings. The shared kitchen comes with a microwave, fridge and an electric kettle. A coin-launderette is on site and luggage storage is offered at the front desk. The property offers a free shuttle service to a public bath located a 5-minute drive away (The public bath is closed on Tuesdays and Fridays). A simple free breakfast with bread and drinks are served at the dining room. Ga-Jyun Guest House is a 10-mimnute walk from Heian Jingu Shrine and Yasaka Shrine. Kyoto Imperial Palace is 20-minute public bus ride and Kyoto Station is a 25-minute subway ride away.
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    • Yadoya Kikokuso
      Mid-range
      Yadoya Kikokuso is set in Kyoto, a 10-minute walk away from JR Kyoto Station and a 5-minute walk from Shichijo Station of the Keihan Line. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 2 km from Yadoya Kikokuso. Higashi Honganji Temple and Sanjusangen-do Temple are respectively a 5 and 10-minute walk from the property. Every room is equipped with a flat-screen TV. Certain units have a seating area where you can relax. The rooms are fitted with a shared bathroom. Extras include slippers and free toiletries. There is luggage storage space at the property. Samurai Kembu Kyoto is 2 km from Yadoya Kikokuso, while Tofuku-ji Temple is 2 km away. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 37 km from the property.
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