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“My favourite place in Kyoto”
Review of Daitoku-ji Temple

Daitoku-ji Temple
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Kyoto World Heritage Hop-On Hop-Off Loop Bus
Ranked #59 of 1,113 things to do in Kyoto
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Owner description: The Daitoku-ji complex of Zen Buddhism consists of 24 temples,including Daisen-in and Ryogen-in.
Level Contributor
104 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 73 helpful votes
“My favourite place in Kyoto”
Reviewed September 22, 2010

Daitoku-ji is a complex of sub-temples, in the North West of Kyoto, easily reached by bus (or you can take the subway and a 10 minute walk)

There are 24 sub-temples, but most of them are closed to the public. However, the ones you can enter are lovely.

While there are temples and shrines by the hundreds in Japan, Zen gardens are harder to come by, and Daitoku-ji is a wonderful chance to see some. By far my favourite (I went back another day!) is Daisen-in. I recommend asking for the English information pack at the entrance, which explains the significance of each part of the garden.

It's a wonderfully relaxing place, away from the hordes of bus tours (both Japanese and foreign! Though I imagine it may be busier on the weekends!) I'd recommend spending about an hour there, to get a chance to absorb the atmosphere of the place. It's a great chance to get a feel of a different side of Japan.

The Japanese tea (matcha) and cake are also worth having.

1 Thank Laurelin_23
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Canton of Vaud, Switzerland
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96 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 153 helpful votes
“A sense of Zen”
Reviewed January 31, 2008

Daitoku-ji is a large Buddhist temple complex in the north west of Kyoto and sits on one of the Raku bus routes and so is easily reached. It is also close to Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Temple), it's only a 15 minute walk between the two along a main road, or again the Raku bus connects the two.

The complex houses 24 sub-temples only a few of which are open to the public. During my week long visit to Kyoto in November 2007 I took the opportunity to visit two of them; Zuiho-in and Daisen-in.

Both of these sub-temples are linked to the Zen Buddhist sect and both have impressive and very different rock gardens.

Zuiho-in is small and sits within a small enclosure. One enters the gate into the small garden which one winds through to the entrance, where, after paying a small fee and removing your shoes, you may enter the temple proper. After walking through the temple, along highly polished wooden floors and passed shoji (paper lattice) walls you come to a viewing platform over the rock garden. This is a very striking and dynamic garden, which was constructed in the 1960's. The garden is a mix of aggresive gravel waves, moss and rock steps and bridges.

Daisen-in, which I visited twice during the week, has a garden that rivals, yet is very different to, that of Ryoan-ji. Again one enters the temple enclosure, removing your shoes before going to the reception to pay a small fee. It's at this point you are informed in a firm polite way, that no photographs are allowed.

The garden circles the main house appears to reflect a rivers journey from the mountains down to the sea. The garden is therefore compartmentalised, with different designs and symbolism in each of the small areas. Until you come to the main gravel sea. Unlike Ryoan-ji, this garden area has no symbolic rocks standing proud amidst the gravel. This garden is sparse, surrounded by a low hedge on two sides and the viewing platform on one other, the garden is wide and flat with intricate rake marks on the gravel. Two large cone-mounds stand alone in one quadrant and in one corner stands a lone tree.

I sat for an eternity gazing at this rock sea, untroubled by other people as the temple was quiet. Occasionaly the laughter of a monk as he gave a guided tour to a small group would echo through the building. I just sat and stared and let my mind roam and wander. Until I saw a tiny brown mushroom growing out of the top of one of the gravel ridges, which then raised a question, which stays with me "why the mushroom". Not quite a classical Zen koan, but for me it works.....

The temple does have a small gift shop which sells calligraphy and photo's of the garden. On both occasions the Abbott, Soen Ozeki, was present. I purchased some calligraphy which he had penned which he then kindly signed, also writing my own name on the wrapping in Japanese characters. I also took the opportunity to have a cup of cha in the temple, sat on a warmed floor in a small room, overlooking a small section of garden. The kettle was heated in a large metal bowl full of hot ash and after the water had been added to the green tea powder a whisk was used to give it it frothy texture. A tart, exhilarating drink that ended my visit to the temple perfectly.

The temple provides a strange mix of spirituality and commercialism, a mix which strangely seems to work under the eye of the Abbott.

5 Thank Steve C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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