Discover Kodai-ji Temple: Cherry Blossoms to Autumn Lights!

Located in the Higashiyama Ward of Kyoto city, there’s a temple called “Kodai-ji,” belonging to the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. It is said to have been built by Nene, the principal wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to pray for his eternal peace. Within the temple’s hall called “Otamaya,” you can find “Kodai-ji makie,” reflecting the splendid Momoyama culture. The area surrounding Kodai-ji, situated on a high ground even within Kyoto city, is embraced by the lush nature of Higashiyama. The temple grounds are particularly captivating during spring, with cherry blossoms in full bloom, and in autumn, when vibrant foliage and evening illuminations adorn the scenery. Let’s explore the charm of Kodai-ji and its surrounding tourist and culinary spots together.

What’s Kodai-ji Temple Like?

Kodai-ji Temple is a Zen Buddhist temple located in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City. The temple’s main deity is Amida Buddha, and it also serves as a mausoleum for Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his wife, Nene. Nene and Hideyoshi’s love story was rare for their time. After Hideyoshi’s passing, Nene is said to have built the temple to pray for his eternal peace. Inside the mausoleum where Nene rests, you’ll find Kodai-ji maki-e, a beautiful lacquerware art incorporating elegant designs and gold and silver dust, showcasing the vibrant culture of the Azuchi-Momoyama period when Hideyoshi lived. Kodai-ji is not only a historical site but also hosts various events like tea ceremonies throughout the year, offering visitors a glimpse of its beauty in every season.

Exploring the History of Kodai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple traces its origins back to the year 1598, following the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, when it was envisioned and founded by Nene. Initially established in 1606 as a Soto Zen temple, it later transitioned to become a Rinzai Zen temple under the Kennin-ji school in 1624. Originally, it boasted lavish structures relocated from Fushimi Castle, where Hideyoshi spent his final days, including tea rooms and a chief priest’s residence, resulting in a temple renowned for its opulence.

The decorative palace from Fushimi Castle was moved to become Nene’s residence, which today is represented by the Enkō-in sub-temple, marking the spot where Nene spent her final years after Hideyoshi’s passing. Despite several fires that have left its main hall and chief priest’s residence unreconstructed as of 2019, Kodai-ji still retains culturally significant structures such as the Umbrella and Shigure Teahouses designed by Sen no Rikyū, along with the mausoleum honoring Hideyoshi and Nene, designated as Important Cultural Properties. While embracing its rich historical significance, Kodai-ji remains flexible, being the first temple in Kyoto to introduce evening illuminations, a cultural practice now adopted by many other temples across the city.

Getting to Kodai-ji Temple: Access Information

Accessing Kodai-ji Temple, a popular tourist spot in Kyoto, is convenient via public transportation. It’s a 10-minute walk from the nearest station and a 7-minute walk from the bus stop. Since the temple is located uphill, it’s advisable to wear comfortable shoes for the walk.

If coming from Kiyomizu-dera Temple or Yasaka Shrine, taking the scenic “Nene’s Path” alleyway is recommended. This charming path is lined with traditional Kyoto shops selling pickles and matcha, and you’ll often see people enjoying photography here. To avoid congestion, it’s best to refrain from driving to the temple.

For trains:

  • A 20-minute walk from JR Kyoto Station
  • A 10-minute walk from Keihan Electric Railway Gion-Shijo Station
  • A 15-minute walk from Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station

For buses:

  • Take the city bus route 206 from JR Kyoto Station, get off at Higashiyama Yasui, then a 7-minute walk.
  • Take the route 207 bus from Keihan Electric Railway Gion-Shijo Station, get off at Higashiyama Yasui, then a 7-minute walk.

Kodai-ji Temple Visitor Information

  • Address: 526 Shimokawara-cho, Kodai-ji, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Phone Number: 075-561-9966
  • Closed: Open every day
  • Opening Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (extended to 10:00 PM for special night visits)
  • Admission Fee: Adults 600 yen, Middle and High School Students 250 yen, Groups of 30 or more 500 yen per person (Combined ticket for Kodai-ji and Enkō-in available for 900 yen)
  • Official Website: Kodai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple is a fascinating temple with a spacious compound, including the Enkō-in where Nene spent her later years. Due to the hilly paths leading to the temple grounds, it’s advisable to wear comfortable shoes when visiting. In general, areas without signs prohibiting photography allow it, but be mindful not to disrupt other visitors.

During special events like spring, summer, New Year’s Eve, Tanabata, or during cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons, the temple is illuminated at night. To avoid crowds, weekdays or visiting after 5:00 PM are recommended.

Exploring the Charms of Kodai-ji Temple: The Temple of Nene and Hideyoshi!

Let me introduce you to the charming Kodai-ji Temple, surrounded by the natural beauty of Higashiyama. This temple, nestled amidst the eastern mountains, boasts a picturesque landscape and is rich in attractions such as the vibrant Momoyama art and tea rooms crafted by Sen no Rikyū. Experience the beauty of each season, from cherry blossoms in spring to autumn foliage, and enjoy the illumination events, while appreciating the historical architecture and treasures of this enchanting temple.

Explore the Serene Gardens and Important Cultural Assets with Our Grounds Guide

Kodai-ji Temple is located up the stairs along Nene’s Path. Before entering the temple grounds, visitors are greeted by a lush green path surrounded by trees. In autumn, it becomes a popular spot for photography due to its vibrant foliage. When the author visited in June before the start of the rainy season, the path was lined with vivid greenery, often referred to as “fresh green maple.” The translucent, vibrant green maple leaves are a sight unique to early summer.

The Kaizan-do Hall and Hojo Garden

As you stroll through the grounds of Kodai-ji Temple, you’ll come across a hall known as the Kaizan-do. This hall, a representative architectural gem of Kodai-ji, was constructed in 1605. Inside this hall, designated as an Important Cultural Property, you’ll find a statue of San’ei Shoeki, who was invited to Kodai-ji when it converted to the Rinzai sect.

The garden spreading out from the Kaizan-do is called the Hojo Garden, extending on both sides. This garden, featuring the Garan-tei and Engetsu-tei ponds, is a masterpiece by Kobori Enshu and designated as a national scenic spot. Near the ponds, you’ll find popular photo spots where visitors enjoy capturing the beauty of the scenery.

Hashintei

The Hojo Garden at Kodai-ji Temple, composed of standing stones and sand patterns, is known as the “Hashintei (Wave Heart Garden).” During evening illuminations, you may witness projection mapping displayed in the garden. In spring, the garden bursts into full bloom with cherry blossoms, offering a vibrant and captivating sight different from its usual appearance.

Garyu-ro

As you proceed along the route toward the Kaizan-do Hall, you’ll notice a corridor shaped like a bridge. This corridor, called the “Garyu-ro,” is a long covered walkway connecting the Kaizan-do Hall with the mausoleum. Named for its resemblance to the back of a dragon, the roofed corridor’s design resembles that of a dragon’s back.

Though visitors can’t actually cross it, its distinctive appearance, extending straight to the Kaizan-do Hall, captivates those who visit. In autumn, the surroundings of the Garyu-ro are adorned with vibrant foliage, offering views painted in shades of red and yellow.

One of the most captivating features of Kodai-ji Temple is undoubtedly the mausoleum. Located at the far end of the temple grounds, up the hill, this spot enshrines Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Nene. Decorations called “Kodai-ji makie” adorn the cupboard doors (zushi) and the pedestal-like altar (shumidan), where the main image is enshrined.

The dazzling decorations, fascinating to behold, incorporate the artistic techniques of lacquerware from the Momoyama period. The wooden images of Hideyoshi and Nene housed in the mausoleum are designated as Important Cultural Properties by the government. While it requires a bit of a walk uphill to reach it due to its elevated position, the mausoleum is an essential highlight within the temple grounds.

Cherry Blossoms in Spring, Autumn Foliage in Fall! Enjoy Seasonal Views, Including Night Illuminations

Surrounded by the natural beauty of Higashiyama, Kodai-ji Temple offers a delightful array of seasonal scenery. One of the highlights during spring at Kodai-ji is the weeping cherry blossoms within the Hojo Garden. With around 50 cherry blossom trees blooming within the temple grounds, visitors flock here to admire the picturesque scene created by the garden and cherry blossoms. Under the bright sky, the vibrant pink hues of the cherry blossoms create a cheerful atmosphere. During special evening viewings, the weeping cherry blossoms are illuminated, casting a magical and moody ambiance around them.

During the fresh green season, Kodai-ji Temple is enveloped in vibrant shades of green throughout its grounds. The lush greenery, including the blue maple leaves seen across the entire temple precinct, is a unique sight exclusive to Kodai-ji during the summer months. Take a moment to admire the scenery created by the pond and surrounding nature at the Garyu-ike pond, located right next to the Kaizan-do Hall.

During the autumn, Kodai-ji Temple sees a surge in tourists, especially drawn by its renowned fall foliage. The entire temple precinct transforms into a spectacle of autumn colors, with vibrant foliage adorning the garden meticulously crafted by the renowned garden designer Kobori Enshu. Behind the temple, the majestic Higashiyama Mountains, known as the “Thirty-Six Peaks of the Eastern Mountains,” stretch out, complementing the temple’s fall foliage and offering a sense of natural grandeur. The trees surrounding the temple’s ponds also turn a brilliant crimson in the autumn. On sunny days, the vivid foliage reflects off the mirror-like surface of the water, creating a breathtaking sight.

At Kodai-ji Temple, seasonal illumination events are held during spring, summer, autumn, and winter, each highlighting the beauty of the respective season. During the cherry blossom season in spring and the autumn foliage in fall, visitors can enjoy illuminations that enhance these natural spectacles. Special illuminations may also take place during events like Tanabata and New Year’s Eve, so it’s advisable to check the temple’s website in advance. In past illuminations, projection mapping was featured. Utilizing the patterns of the “Wave Heart Garden” in the Hojo Garden, the projection mapping offered a modern yet distinctly Kyoto-esque experience.

Entoku-in: Where Nene Spent Her Later Years

Located just a 2-minute walk from Kodai-ji Temple’s entrance, Entoku-in is where Nene, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, spent her later years from the age of 58 until her passing, a span of 19 years. While admission is separate, combo tickets are available for both Kodai-ji Temple and Entoku-in, making it convenient to visit both sites. Passing through a large wooden gate, visitors enter the hall, where the view opens up to a beautiful garden.

Known as the Minami-tei Garden, this meticulously designed garden was supervised by the gardener Yasuo Kitayama, with special attention to Nene’s preferences. The path leading to the garden is adorned with flowers and foliage, ensuring a delightful view of blossoms or autumn leaves throughout the year. Sitting on the veranda and enjoying the tranquil surroundings is a wonderful way to unwind and appreciate the moment.

Inside the Hojo (Abbot’s Quarters), you’ll find impressive sliding door paintings and wall murals. Among them, the “White Dragon,” a masterpiece by the artist Akamatsu Ryōga, depicted across multiple sliding doors, portrays the image of Hideyoshi, who unified the warring states during the Sengoku period. Through these sliding door paintings, you can feel the strong bond between Hideyoshi and Nene, who were known to have a close relationship. The dynamic depiction of a dragon soaring through the undulating waves towards the sky is truly awe-inspiring. Additionally, you can admire other valuable artworks such as the “Winter Scene” by Hasegawa Tōhaku, designated as Important Cultural Properties.

The Kita Tei, or Northern Garden, is a recreation of the front garden of the Kita no Mandokoro’s Makeup Palace from Fushimi Castle, relocated here. Retaining much of its original form from that era, this garden is considered one of the representative gardens of the Momoyama period. Designated as a National Place of Scenic Beauty, this garden combines a pond and stream-style layout with a dry landscape garden.

As you gaze deeper into the garden, you’ll see numerous large rocks arranged in clusters, offering a view that exudes the boldness and strength characteristic of the Momoyama era. Adjacent to the Kita Tei stands the Three-Faced Daikokuten, which enshrines Daikokuten, Bishamonten, and Benzaiten together. Make sure to visit this power spot, where it’s said that Hideyoshi, who once struggled in his youth, rapidly rose to success after paying his respects.

Entoku-in Temple Visitor Information:

  • Address: 530 Shimokawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 6 minutes on foot from City Bus Route 206, “Higashiyama Yasui”
  • Phone Number: 075-525-0101
  • Closed: Open every day
  • Opening Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Gate closes at 5:30 PM)
  • Admission Fee: Adults 500 yen, Students (Middle/High School) 200 yen, Group (30 people or more) 400 yen
  • Official Website: Entoku-in Temple Website (kodaiji.com)

Recommended Attractions Around Kodai-ji Temple

There are many charming spots around Kodai-ji Temple, including Kennin-ji Temple, which belongs to the same Rinzai Zen Buddhist sect, and Maruyama Park, a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. Take a stroll to these nearby attractions within walking distance and explore the streets of Kyoto.

Maruyama Park: A Nature-Rich Park with Japanese Gardens

Take the City Bus No. 100 or 206 and get off at “Gion” stop. From there, it’s a 5-minute walk from Gion or a 5-minute walk from Kodai-ji Temple to reach Maruyama Park, a spacious park in Kyoto. As one of Kyoto’s oldest parks, Maruyama Park offers picturesque views throughout the year. Its Japanese garden, designated as a national scenic spot, features a pond-style landscape garden created by Ogawa Jihei VII during the Taisho era.

At the far end of the pond, you’ll find the natural beauty of the Higashiyama Mountains, providing breathtaking vistas on clear days. Walking along the slope beside the garden’s pond is a soothing experience, with a stream flowing alongside. Heading left from the slope leads to Chion-in Temple and Shoren-in Monzeki, while turning right takes you to the Philosopher’s Path and Kodai-ji Temple.

Maruyama Park Visitor Information:

  • Address: Maruyama-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: Take City Bus No. 100 or 206 from JR Kyoto Station, get off at “Gion” stop, 5-minute walk. Alternatively, it’s a 7-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway, or a 10-minute walk from Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Subway Line.
  • Phone Number: 075-561-1350
  • Closed: Open every day
  • Hours: Open for public access
  • Admission: Free
  • Official Website: Maruyama Park

Power Spot Honoring Susanoo-no-Mikoto – Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine, located just a short walk from the “Gion” bus stop served by routes 206 and 100. Welcoming visitors is the grand “Nishi-ro-mon” gate, one of the iconic structures in the Higashiyama area. This vermilion gate, often a favorite spot for photos, is designated as an important cultural property by the government.

At the heart of the shrine stands the “honden” main hall, where Susanoo-no-Mikoto, a figure from Japanese mythology, is enshrined. The current honden, reconstructed during the reign of the fourth Tokugawa shogun, Ietsuna, is also designated as an important cultural property, just like the Nishi-ro-mon gate.

On the eastern side of the main hall, you’ll find carved sculptures atop the pillars known as “Ryukoboe.” Clap your hands toward Ryukoboe, and you’ll hear a reverberating sound resembling the roar of a dragon.

Within Yasaka Shrine, there are numerous small shrines known as “massha.” One of these, called “Utsukushigozensha,” enshrines three goddesses known for their beauty. Next to this power spot for beauty, believed to bring blessings for wealth and beauty, is a spring called “Biyo-mizu,” said to have benefits for skincare.

Yasaka Shrine Visitor Information

  • Address: 625 Gion-machi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: A short walk from Gion bus stop served by routes 206 and 100, 5-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway
  • Phone: 075-561-6155
  • Closed: Open every day
  • Hours: Open for visits at any time
  • Admission: Free
  • Official Website: Yasaka Shrine

Discover the Main Temple of the Rinzai Zen Sect, Kennin-ji, Home to National Treasures Including Twin Dragon Paintings!

Located just a 5-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway and about a 10-minute walk from Kodai-ji Temple is Kennin-ji Temple. Kennin-ji, the head temple of the Rinzai Zen sect to which Kodai-ji also belongs, is a vast temple ground that feels surprisingly spacious for its urban location. Explore numerous cultural treasures within the temple grounds, including the famous “Wind and Thunder Gods” painting by Tawaraya Sotatsu. The Hatto (Dharma Hall) near the center of the grounds serves as both a Buddha hall and a lecture hall. Inside the Hatto, you’ll find the iconic Twin Dragons painting, which has become a symbol of Kennin-ji. The Twin Dragons on the ceiling were painted to commemorate the temple’s 800th anniversary.

One of the must-see attractions at Kennin-ji Temple that draws many visitors is the “Wind and Thunder Gods” painting by Tawaraya Sotatsu. Displayed in the Shoin, a building located at the rear of the main hall called Honbo, this painting is designated as a national treasure and is renowned as one of Tawaraya Sotatsu’s masterpieces. The dynamic composition, depicting the Wind God and Thunder God soaring through a golden sky, leaves a lasting impression. While the original painting is housed in the Kyoto National Museum, Kennin-ji Temple exhibits replicas on folding screens and ceramic panels. Photography is generally allowed without tripods.

Kennin-ji Temple Visitor Information

  • Address: Komatsu-cho, Karasuma-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 5 minutes on foot from Keihan Electric Railway “Gion-Shijo Station”
  • Phone Number: 075-561-6363
  • Closed: Open daily
  • Opening Hours: [March 1st to October 31st] 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM, [November 1st to February 28th] 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Admission Fee: Adults 500 yen, Middle/High School Students 300 yen, Elementary School Students 200 yen
  • Official Website: Kennin-ji Temple

Recommended Food Spots Around Kodai-ji Temple

The area around Kodai-ji Temple offers a wealth of sightseeing spots and dining options. Let’s indulge in some delicious cuisine alongside our sightseeing adventures.

Established in 1930, a Long-Standing Favorite! Try the Specialty Oyakodon at “Gion Shimokawara Hisago”

Located a 13-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway and just a 3-minute walk from Kodai-ji Temple, this long-standing establishment offers a taste of tradition. In addition to their signature dish, the “Oyakodon” (Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl), they also serve seasonal specialties like “Seiro Soba” and “Nishin Soba”. Priced at ¥1,010 (tax included), the “Oyakodon” boasts a rich flavor of chicken and dashi broth. For those seeking a twist in taste, adding a sprinkle of sansho pepper brings a refreshing hint of spiciness. Experience the flavors of this time-honored establishment that has been serving customers since the Showa era.

Gion Shimokawara Hisago Shop Information

  • Address: 484 Shimogawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: A 13-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway, a 3-minute walk from the Higashiyama Yasui bus stop on the city bus route 206
  • Phone Number: 075-561-2109
  • Closed: Mondays, Fridays
  • Hours: 11:30 AM to 7:00 PM (Last Order at 6:30 PM)
  • Budget: [Dinner] ¥1,000 to ¥1,999, [Lunch] ¥1,000 to ¥1,999

Established in 1978! Traditional Tea Shop Runs a Japanese Café “Saryo Tsujiri”

Located just a 5-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway, “Saryo Tsujiri” is the flagship store of a renowned matcha (green tea) shop founded in 1978. Apart from traditional matcha drinks, indulge in their parfaits and sweets, born from the idea of incorporating matcha into food. The “Tsujiri Parfait” priced at 1,178 yen (tax included) is an original parfait featuring Uji matcha. Layered with matcha cream, hojicha (roasted green tea) jelly, and sweet red bean paste, it offers a delightful balance of flavors and aromas, with a mild sweetness making it easy to enjoy.

Tsujiri Gion Main Store Information:

  • Address: 573-3 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, 2nd & 3rd floors of Gion Tsujiri Main Store
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: A 5-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway
  • Phone Number: 075-561-2257
  • Closed: Open every day
  • Business Hours: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM (from June 1, 2019)
  • Budget: [Dinner] ¥1,000-¥1,999 [Lunch] ¥1,000-¥1,999
  • Official URL: Tsujiri Gion Main Store


We’ve introduced the highlights of Kodai-ji Temple from the perspective of the author who actually visited. Kodai-ji Temple offers plenty of attractions, including the scenic beauty of its rich natural surroundings throughout the four seasons, as well as its valuable architecture and treasures. Explore nearby tourist spots and gourmet spots within walking distance as well.

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