After an amusement park-like ride on Kyoto city bus--drive as fast as possible, brake in the shortest amount of space, repeat--we got off at Daitokuji-mae, frazzled but braced by a wintry breeze. It was a relief to be walking on terra firma, and the temple grounds were mostly empty in the late afternoon.
Daitokuji is a large temple complex in north central Kyoto that is part of the Rinzai sect. It was established in 1319 by Daito Kokushi.
Like Myoshinji in the west of Kyoto, Daitokuji is a city within walls--and free other than certain sub-temples. During the Onin War, some of the temples burned down; it was thereafter rebuilt by wealthy merchants.
Aside from being a wonderful place to wander, away from traffic and noise, where dog walkers and children gather, the sub temples are also well worth a visit.
Daisen-in is very well known for its rock garden, and the main building is a national treasure. Jukko-in features wall paintings by Kano Eitoku and his father Kano Shoei.
We had time for one and chose Ryogen-in, which was constructed in 1502. The Meditation Hall is the oldest in Japan; the temple also has on display the "oldest gun in Japan," which was allegedly used in a chess match between the shoguns Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. (They both survived the match.) There is also a dragon painted on a sliding door--hence the name Ryo-gen-in, which means the source of the dragon temple. An inner rock garden is the smallest in Japan, a larger rock garden--Isshidan (pictured above)--is within, and a moss garden is the back.
A fifteen minute walk from Kitaoji Subway station (Karasuma Line). Or, take #205 or 206 bus from Kyoto station and get off at Daitokuji-mae.
They vary by sub-temple, but are usually 400-500 yen.
Festival Happi Coats
Japan Kyoto Daitokuji Japanese Buddhism Ryokan Zen