Not far away from the famous Kinkakuji (Golden Temple) and Ryoanji (popular for the rock garden), the more quiet and serene Daitokuji complex will get you the zen garden experience you are looking for in Kyoto.
The temple complex of Daitokuji consists of nearly two dozen smaller temples and is surrounded by a typical residential area with lots of small local teashops and independent businesses. Guest House hachi picked up some of the most beautiful spots for sightseeing and tea in the northern area of Kyoto.
The entrance into the Daitokuji complex is free. However, the main buildings are usually not open to visitors, but you can see a typical layout of a zen monastery and adore the famous Sanmon, Hatto and Butsuden. As for the subtemples
Daisenin, Ryogenin and Kotoin, visitors have to pay a small admission fee for each temple, but it is totally worth it!
Daisenin probably the most visited temple or the sub temples as tour buses stop by frequently. To avoid the crowds we highly recommend you to visit this temple last to enjoy the beautiful Zen gardens that surround the whole building. The temple itself is rather small, but the four Zen gardens are not to be missed by garden lovers.
Please keep in mind that this temple strictly prohibits taking pictures of the garden!
If you want to see and learn about the garden, it is definitely a recommended spot.
A highlight of Daisenin is the oldest surviving example of tokunoma (alcove), that are still part of many traditional Japanese rooms.
The First Floor Japanese Room and the Second Floor Japanese Room at Guest House hachi both have a tokunoma space each.
If you are interested in dry landscape gardens, Ryogenin offers you five zen gardens to admire. The most famous one, a representation of the universe, is not to be missed by garden lovers. Furthermore, the painted fusuma (sliding doors) at Ryogenin display gorgeous images of dragons and hermits.
As one of the most beautiful and photogenic gardens of the Daitokuji complex, Kotoin impresses visitors with the long flagstone path through its bamboo forest. During the path you go through three gates in total that separate the spiritual center of the temple from the outer world. The maple trees of Kotoin are especially popular during late November when the colours of the leaves turn deep red and contrast with the moss garden in the
very back of the temple.
As a center of tea ceremony the Daitokuji area has some great spots for
purchasing tea or just having a nice tea moment with traditional Japanese sweets.
We picked up two beautiful local and authentic places for you to relax.
Kazariya – Aburi Mochi
North of the Daitokuji temple complex the 600 year old Kazariya aburi mochi (roasted glutinous rice sweet on a bamboo skewer and dipped in soybean sauce) shop serves wonderful traditional Japanese sweets with green tea for 500 Yen. The shop’s ladies are extremely friendly and try to explain as much as possible to the visitors.
We at Guest House hachi love the independent local businesses of Kyoto and Kouroan’s success story is truly inspiring. As a relatively young business (for 10 years) the company is producing its own tea at six separate farms in Ujitawara, where Kyoto’s top quality tea grows. In store you can enjoy the delicious taste of different tea types, from matcha, sencha to gyokuro, with traditional Japanese sweets and sit on tatami to enjoy their beautiful old house. You can grind your own matcha and attend a tea ceremony here as well. Check out their homepage for more information.
How to get to Daitakuji from Guest House hachi?
Take the Kyoto City Bus 206 from Shimabaraguchi bus stop and get off at Daitakujimae bus stop.
The bus will take you directly to the temple within 30 minutes.