Daitoku-ji is the head temple of the Rinzai sect's Daitokuji school within Japanese Zen Buddhism and is considered one of the best places to experience Zen in Japan.

This vast temple complex has 24 subtemples forming what resembles a small village. It is one of the largest Zen temple in Japan, along with the Tofuku-ji and Nanzen-ji. The main temple and some of the subtemples are open to the public and display Zen architecture and design, including gardens and tea ceremony rooms.

The layout of the temple is straightforward. Running from north to south are the Chokushi-mon (Gate of Imperial Messengers), the San-mon (Triple Gate), the Butsu-den (Buddha Hall), the Hatto (Lecture Hall), and the Hojo (Abbots' Quarters). The 23 subtemples are on the west side of these main buildings and were donated mainly by the wealthy vassals of Toyotomi.

The Chokushi-mon originally served as the south gate of Kyoto's Imperial Palace when it was constructed in 1590. Then Empress Meisho in the mid-17th century bequeathed it to Daitoku-ji. Note the curved-gable style of the gate, typical of the Momoyama period. The San-mon is noteworthy for the addition of its third story, designed by tea master Sen-no-Rikyu (1521-91), who is buried in the temple grounds. 

Three subtemples in the complex are noteworthy: Daisen-in, Koto-in, and Ryogen-in.

Among the most interesting subtemples are Kotoin, which is renowned for the autumn foliage of its moss garden (particularly spectacular when the leaves turn color, usually in mid November). It is also famous for its long, maple-tree-lined approach and the single stone lantern that is central to the main garden

Daisen-in boasts a superb "dry landscape" rock gardens and the Ryogen-in what is said to be the smallest Zen garden in Japan. Admission to each garden varies from (300 to 450).

Ryogen-in is not as popular as some of the other temples of Daitoku-ji, but it's often quiet and peaceful. The subtemple has five small gardens of moss and stone, one of which, on the north side, is the oldest in Daitoku-ji.

Daitoku-ji is also a good place to study Zen Buddhism. Some subtemples offer meditation lessons.

Note that there are two high-quality Buddhist vegetarian restaurants on the compound.


Daitoku-ji-cho, Murasakino, Kyoto, Japan.

By Railway
There are several ways to get to the temple from downtown Kyoto. Take the subway north from Kyoto Station to Kita-oji Station, from which any bus going west along Kita-oji-dori will take you to the Daitoku-ji-mae stop. Daitokuji is 5min walk from Kitaoji station on the Karasuma Subway line.

By Bus
Take Bus 12 north up Horikawa-dori and disembark soon after the bus makes a left on Kita-oji-dori. From western Kyoto Bus 204, which runs up Nishi-oji-dori, and Bus 206, which runs up Sembon-dori, will also take you to the temple.

9:00am - 5:00pm daily (varies from temple to temple, enter 30 minutes before closing).

350 yen to 400 yen (varies from temple to temple).