Daitokuji Temple is the largest temple in northern Kyoto and a key site for the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism. Walk through the gardens and explore several of the subtemples to experience the history and beauty of Japan's Zen culture.
The subtemples were originally erected as patron temples for some of Japan's greatest warrior clans
Daitokuji is considered the spiritual home of the Japanese tea ceremony
Daitokuji Temple is a 15-minute walk from Kitaoji Station, on the Karasuma Line. If you're coming by bus, take bus 101, 205 or 206 from Kyoto Station and get off at the Daitokuji-mae stop.
Within Daitokuji's huge compound are nearly two-dozen subtemples, which house a large number of cultural properties. Founded in 1319, this temple was destroyed by fire during the Onin War (1467-1477). Daitoji was subsequently restored by the famous priest, Ikkyu.
The temple eventually developed a relationship with the legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu, who was the teacher of warlords Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Upon Oda's death in 1582, Toyotomi had his predecessor entombed in Sokenin, one of Daitokuji's subtemples. Other feudal lords followed suit, constructing subsidiary temples for their ancestors. Due to this wealth of support from both the political and merchant classes, Daitokuji became a treasure trove of Zen culture, namely in its gardens and architecture.
Four of the 21 subtemples are regularly open to the public, and an additional four have special openings, generally in the high tourist seasons of spring and autumn.
The towering Sanmon Gate, built in 1479, is listed as an important cultural property. Sen no Rikyu added the second story, and afterward his disciples placed within it a life-sized statue of their teacher.