The best time to visit Daitokuji is in the fall. Many sub-temples are open to the public in this season.
Daitokuji Temple is the head temple of the Daitokuji School of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. It was founded in 1315 at the end of the Kamakura period.
Onin War devastated the Temple. But monk Ikkyu restored it. In 1583 (Momoyama period), Toyotomi Hideyoshi built Soken-in sub-Temple, to mourn the loss of Oda Nobunaga. And then, the temple prospered as many Daimyo (warlords) competed to build sub-temples.
The Temple has a temple complex that includes a gate, a Buddha hall, a main hall, a hojo, a kuri (kitchen), a monastery, a bathhouse, a sutra library, and a bell tower. Many of these are designated as Important Cultural Properties or National Treasure.
Sanmon gate has another name “Golden-feather Pavilion (Kinmokaku)” . In 1589, Sen no Rikyu added a second floor to the gate. So the temple was so grateful that it enshrined Sen no Rikyu’s wooden statue on the second floor of Kinmokaku. This angered Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the powerful ruler of the time. And it was one of the reasons Sen no Rikyu committed seppuku (ritual suicide).
The temple precincts retain the atmosphere of a Zen temple from the Edo period.
The inside of the Temple is usually not open to the public. However, on rare occasions, some of them may accept public at events.
Some sub-temples are open to the public throughout the year. Some are open on special occasions. Others are always not open to the public.
In the main hall of Soken-in there is a wooden seated statue of Oda Nobunaga (Important Cultural Property) dedicated by Hideyoshi.
Daisen-in is the most important sub-temple. It is open to the public.
Hoshun-in Temple has a bonsai garden. This garden is open to the public for a fee. It is not to be missed by anyone interested in bonsai.
Korin-in is open on special occasions in spring and autumn.
Zuiho-in has the famous “cross garden”.
Ryogen-in has three dry landscape gardens. The original buildings, the Hojo, Karamon, and Omotemon, are important cultural properties.
The gardens in Obai-in temple are must see if you have chance. Obai-in is only open to the public during limited times of the year.
Nearby spots from Daitokuji Temple
Imamiya Jinja Shrine is located just north of Daitokuji Temple.