Site NavigationWa-pedia Top > Japan Guide > Travel > Kansai region > Kyoto Guide > North Kyoto > Daitoku-ji Temple

Daitoku-ji Temple 大徳寺

San-mon Gate, Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto (photo by 663highland - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license) Kōtō-in, Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto (photo by Markus Leupold-Löwenthal - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Ryūhōzan Daitoku-ji is the head temple of the Daitoku school of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. This vast temple complex is made of 24 subtemples covering 23 hectares (56 acres), forming a small village of its own. It is one of the largest Zen temples in Japan, along with the Tōfuku-ji and Nanzen-ji.

Daitoku-ji is a good place to study Zen Buddhism. Some of its subtemples offer meditation lessons. Note that there are two high-quality Buddhist vegetarian restaurants on the compound for those who want to further their experience of Japanese Buddhism.


Daitoku-ji was founded as a small monastery in 1319 by the monk Shūhō Myōchō (1282-1337). In 1325 it was converted into a supplication hall for the Imperial court at the request of the retired Emperor Hanazono (1297-1348). The temple also received the patronage of his successor, Emperor Go-Daigo (1288-1339).

The temple was destroyed by a fire in 1474, during the Ōnin War (1467-77) that ravaged the capital. Reconstruction was only completed in the 16th century.

In 1582, the new ruler of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, had his predecessor, Oda Nobunaga, inhumed at Daitoku-ji.


Many of the buildings on the compound are listed as National Treasures or Important Cultural Assets. Let's note especially the Hōjō (方丈 ; Abbot's Hall), the Kara-mon Gate (唐門), the San-mon Gate (三門), the Chokushi-mon Gate (勅使門), the Hottō (法堂 ; Dharma Hall), and the Butsuden (仏殿 ; Buddha Hall).

The six largest subtemples are the Daisen-in (大仙院), the Jukyō-in (聚光院), the Kohōan (孤篷庵), the Obai-in (黄梅院), the Ryōkō-in (龍光院), and the Shinjuan (真珠庵). However, only four subtemples are open to the public all year round, while some are accessible at specific times of the year.

  • The Daisen-in, in the north-eastern part of the compound, is the most interesting. It was built between 1509 and 1513 and boasts two gardens. The first is a tiny Chinese-style garden replicating a landscape painting. The second is a stern "dry landscape" rock gardens representing the "Sea of Nothingness".

  • The Kōtō-in (高桐院) is renowned for the autumn foliage of its beguiling moss garden .
  • The Ryōgen-in (龍源院), at the southern extremity, is said to possess the smallest Zen garden in Japan. Admission to each garden varies from ¥300 to ¥450.
  • The Zuihō-in (瑞峯院) was established in 1535 in honour to Ōtomo Sōrin, a Christian daimyō. To commemorate this, in the 1960's the rock garden was redesigned in the shape of a cross amidst wavy gravel patterns reminiscent of water.
  • Founded in 1562; the Obai-in (黄梅院) boasts a very attractive moss garden and a simple rock garden. It is only open in autumn, from 6 to 31 October, and again from 13 November to 9 December.

Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto (photo by 663highland - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license) Sangen-in, Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto (photo by Hiro2006 - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Opening Hours & Admission

The various subtemples are usually open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm or 5:00 pm.

How to get there

Daitokuji is 5 minutes walk from Kitaoji station on the Karasuma Subway line. Alternatively, buses No 101, 205 and 206 from Kyōto station stop at Daitokuji-mae.

Access map

View Larger Map
Kyoto Guide
Eikandō Zenrinji
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Heian Shrine
Imperial Palace
Katsura Rikyū
Maruyama Park
Nijō Castle
Ōkōchi Sansō
Philosopher's Path
Shimogamo Shrine
Shugakuin Rikyū
Ujigami Shrine
Yasaka Shrine

Map of Japan

Copyright © 2002-2014 All Rights Reserved.