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Why Tofukuji Temple is special ?
Tofukuji Temple is a massive religious complex that was founded in 1236 and built in the ensuing decades. Tofukuji Temple has been plagued by fire on many occasions: Tofukuji Temple was destroyed in 1319, 1334, and 1336, and burned again in the 15th century.
It has since come to be known as one of the Great Zen Temples of Kyoto; the others are Kenninji, Manjuji, Nanzenji, Shokokuji, and Tenryuji.
The temple is best known for its massive gate - at 22 meters it is the largest in any Japanese Zen temple - and its Zen gardens within the Hojo (Abbot's Hall). The gate was built in 1425 - then taken apart, fixed, and rebuilt in the 1970s. The stone Zen gardens surround the Abbot's Hall on all four sides and each is different in character and design. The gardens are named from the cardinal points thus: northern garden, eastern garden, southern garden and western garden.
The garden by MireiShigemori (18961975) features a stone zen garden, and, in the rear, a moss garden. Tofukuji Temple is especially beautiful in the fall and is also known for its azaleas and hydrangeas in summer.
The upper floor of the great gate holds a number of Buddhist statues dating from the Heian Period and thought to have been created by Jocho, a noted sculptor. The ceiling of the Sammon is decorated with paintings by Mincho (aka Cho Densu 1352-1431) and his descipleKandensu.
The Main Hall (Hondo) was rebuilt in 1932 and the ceiling painting of a dragon is by InshoDomoto.
Tofukuji owns many rare paintings by artists such as Sesshu (1420-1506) and Kichizan Mincho aka Cho Densu (1352-1431). A huge 11.9m x 7.9m scroll by Mincho depicting the Buddha's Entry into Nirvana is shown to the public annually on March 15.
The beautiful grounds have some beautiful maples in autumn and are known for their hydrangea in summer. A small stream, known as Sengyokukan runs through the garden traversed by three bridges, the most famous of which is the Tsuten Bridge, which features in aukiyoe by the artist Hiroshige.
What to explore at Tofukuji Temple?
In autumn, people come from all over Japan to see Tofukuji's autumn colors. The most popular view is of the Tsutenkyo Bridge, which spans a valley of lush maple trees. The view from the bridge is equally spectacular, and the 100 meter long, covered walkway becomes extremely crowded when the colors reach their peak, usually around mid to late November.
Several parts of Tofukuji's temple grounds are free to enter, including the area around some of its largest and most impressive buildings. The 22 meter tall Sanmon Gate is the oldest Zen gate of its kind, dating back to 1425. Behind the gate is the Hondo (main hall), which is even larger but is a recent reconstruction from 1934.
Surrounding those two massive structures are a number of temple buildings that date back to the early Muromachi Period (1333-1573) and are rare examples of surviving Zen architecture from that era, including the meditation hall (zendo), belfry (shoro), bath (yokushitsu) and lavatory (tosu).
The Hojo, the head priest's former living quarters, is one of Tofukuji's two paid areas. Rock gardens were often built alongside hojo buildings, but the gardens at Tofukuji'sHojo are unique for surrounding the building on all sides. Each garden has a different character, employing pebbles, large rocks, moss, trees and checkered patters. The Hojo was most recently reconstructed in 1890 while the gardens are relatively modern creations dating from the late 1930s.
The other paid area consists of the above mentioned Tsutenkyo Bridge and Kaisando Hall, which serves as the mausoleum of the temple's first head priest. The stone path in front of the Kaisando is flanked by contrasting gardens on both sides, a dry rock garden on the left and a lush pond garden on the right. The Kaisando and its gardens were last reconstructed during the Edo Period (1603-1867).
How to get to Tofukuji Temple?
Tofukuji is a ten minute walk from Tofukuji Station on the JR Nara Line (2 minutes, 140 yen from Kyoto Station) and the Keihan Main Line. Alternatively, the temple is a ten minute walk from Tofukuji bus stop (15 minutes, 230 yen from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus 208).
- One of the top two temple for autumn foliage in Kyoto
- Beautiful temple complex in romantic nature setting
- Favorite temple in Kyoto
- One of 5 great Zen temples of Kyoto
- Remarkable View for Autumn leaves
〒605-0981 京都府京都市 東山区本町15丁目778
Tips for you
If you walk from the train station you should go through the neighborhood along the northern of the temple as there are three or four cute little temples along the way. Among these subtemples in Tofukuji Temple, Syokakuan Temple is known as Writing Brush Temple because of its Writing Brush Burial Mound. The Eastern Garden has seven cylindrical stones arranged in the moss field.What to see
Though Tofukuji Temple is known as one of 5 great Zen temples of Kyoto, it is not very crowded and not many people visit the temple. Situated in a quiet neighbourhood, it doesn't get the recognition it rightly deserves as the crowds somehow stay away. Then again, it makes it a more peaceful place to visit when there are no crowds. :) The name Tofukuji is actually taken from Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji Temples in Nara. Currently there are 24 sub-temples in the Tofukuji compound. The oldest gate of Tofukuji Temple is a National Treasure of Japan and stands at a height of two stories. This Sanmon Gate is the oldest of its kind. Entrance into Tofukuji is free except for certain areas such as the Hojo Garden. Love the Northern Garden best! Looks like a checkerboard... haha
Gorgeous underrated Zen monastery in an amazing setting. Fantastic example of a Japanese garden done right.
Well-known for its beautiful scenery of maple leaves. Sightseers flock to the place during the season in full swing. This site is a little different from other major autumn leaves viewing spots. That is, you can enjoy the magnificent view walking on the long wooden corridor called Tsutenbashi connecting the main hall to the other hall. There is no window, only large poles. I saw the maple leaves panorama from here. It was weekend that I visited here with my husband. Very crowded with the visitors. The maple leaves were changing its color gradually or partially yellow or crimson. The gradation and contrast is beyond my description. This temple is a little distant from the central part of the city. But worth bothering to come here. Around here small temples are spotted. How about strolling this tranquil Higashiyama area?