Daikakuji Temple 大覚寺

Daikaku-ji Temple
Daikaku-ji Temple

A former imperial villa in Kyoto turned temple

Daikakuji, a temple in the Ukyo district of Kyoto , was originally an Imperial villa, but was converted into a temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism in 876. A number of 16th-century buildings were moved here from the Imperial Palace after a fire in the Edo period.

Don't Miss

  • The moon-viewing event held each year on the first weekend of September
  • The lovely garden, based upon Dongting Lake in China
  • A visit at the height of cherry blossom season

Quick Facts

Daikakuji was originally built for Emperor Saga, whose ban on the consumption of meat defined the Japanese diet for centuries

The temple hosted peace talks during the civil wars of the Namboku-cho period

How to Get There

Daikakuji is a 15-minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station or 20 minutes from Arashiyama Station on the Keifuku Line.

Royals as abbots

Successive members of the Imperial family had occupied the position of the abbot of the temple, and as a consequence, the temple was also regarded as a residence of the Imperial family, and known as the Saga Imperial Palace.

The shinden (palace for the emperor's daily use) has been designated an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government, and the temple grounds are also designated a National Historic Site.

The garden of the lake

The temple's Osawa garden was designed in the Chinese architectural style known as chisen-shuyu, which indicates that it is meant to be viewed from a boat. The large lake beside the garden is Japan's oldest artificial pond.

Calligraphy as a means of enlightenment

Today, Daikakuji attracts many worshippers as a seminary for the study of the Han'nya-Shingyo, an important Buddhist sutra known in English as The Heart Sutra.

The practice of sutra copying is called shakyo, and was introduced to the temple by Kobo Daishi as a means of gaining spiritual merit. One of the temple treasures is a copy of the sutra that is said to have been written by Emperor Saga himself.

The flowering spirit

The Saga school of flower arrangement uses Daikakuji as its headquarters. The school maintains its historical traditions and status while incorporating modern sensibilities, and thus is increasing in popularity year by year. A flower festival is held at the temple every year.

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