sights / Religious

Lonely Planet review

Daitoku-ji is a separate world within Kyoto – a world of Zen temples, perfectly raked gardens and wandering lanes. It is one of the most rewarding destinations in this part of the city, particularly for those with an interest in Japanese gardens.

Daitoku-ji, the headquarters of the Rinzai Daitoku-ji school, contains an extensive complex of 24 subtemples – including Daisen-in, Kōtō-in, Ōbai-in, Ryōgen-in and Zuihō-in. If you want an intensive look at Zen culture, this is the place to visit.

The eponymous Daitoku-ji is on the eastern side of the grounds. It was founded in 1319, burnt down in the next century and rebuilt in the 16th century. The San-mon gate (1589) has a self-carved statue of its erector, the famous tea-master Sen no Rikyū, on its 2nd storey.

Some sources say that Toyotomi Hideyoshi was so angry when he discovered he’d been demeaning himself by walking under Rikyū’s effigy that he forced the master to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) in 1591.

The Karasuma subway line is the best way to get here. From the station, walk west along Kitaōji-dōri for about 20 minutes. You’ll see the temple complex on your right. The main entrance is bit north of Kitaōji. If you enter from the main gate, which is on the east side of the complex, you will soon after find Daitoku-ji on your right.