Kodaiji Temple (Kyoto)

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SGMT Japan Kyoto Kodaiji Temple 04

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The Higashiyama ward is home to many temples and shrines. The Kodaiji Temple isn’t the most famous — that distinction goes to Kiyomizudera — but it’s also worth a visit if you are in the area. It was built in honor of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a badass feudal lord in the late 1500’s whose list of accomplishments include (randomly): reunifying Japan, forbidding samurai from farming, forbidding farmers from owning swords, persecuting Christians, patronizing the arts, ordering his master of the tea ceremony (and one of his closest friends) to commit suicide, and attempting to conquer China by way of Korea (didn’t work). A complicated man, shall we say, but he was a peasant who worked his way to becoming Imperial Regent of Japan so…that’s something.

This is the main hall of the Kodaiji Temple.
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Beside the main hall is Kodaiji’s rock garden — the raked gravel is intended to represent the ocean.
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A tsukiyama style garden highlights the Kaizando, or memorial hall, that houses wooden images of Hideyoshi and his wife Nene; their mausoleums are elsewhere in the temple complex.
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The maple trees in the tsukiyama garden are the focus of yearly fall illuminations.
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Kodaiji Temple also features a small bamboo grove, illuminated here against the early evening sky.
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SGMT Japan Kyoto Kodaiji Temple 06 bamboo grove

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On my way out, I spotted these three ladies, probably waiting for their companions to complete their tour of the temple grounds.
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It was fully dark by the time I got out of Kodaiji Temple, which was fine as I was staying only 300 m away (at Gion Ryokan Q-beh, which I thoroughly recommend). To be honest, that’s the real reason I went up to Kodaiji, because I was staying nearby and had nothing to do before supper. I didn’t even find out all those things about Toyotomi Hideyoshi until way after my visit to the temple dedicated to his memory. But it’s a nice place, its bamboo grove spared me a visit to Arashiyama, and if I’d had the time I think I would have stayed a bit longer by the rock garden. The idea of just sitting there appeals to me — just staring at the white gravel, losing myself in thought, until I can hear the waves of its symbolic ocean.
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Where to Stay in Kyoto

How to get to Kodaiji Temple

  • From Kyoto Station, take bus number 100 or 206 (15 minutes, 230 yen) to the Higashiyama Yasui bus stop. The temple is a 10-15 minute walk from there.

 


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Kodaiji Temple
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2 thoughts on “Kodaiji Temple (Kyoto)”

  • That Japanese style architecture is stunning. What a beautiful area. I must admit I read the “ordered friend to commit suicide” though & gasped. Interesting but…wow.
    I don’t know why this reminded me, probably because of the suicide connection, but have you heard of Yukio Mishima? If you’ve previously mentioned him and I forgot or something than I apologize. I read one of his short stories “Swaddling Clothes” several years ago (which is anti Westernization) and then wanted to learn more about him just because. He ended up committing suicide in a suicide ritual.

    • I’ve never heard of him before, must look him up. I’d only previously learned that sometimes Japanese commit suicide (seppuku/harakiri) as a matter of honor.

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