In the forested mountain foothills east of Kyoto, the small Kodai-ji Temple is a historic place of worship for members of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. Surrounded by raked-sand Zen gardens and accessed by a bridge over a peaceful boulder-lined pool, the temple was constructed in 1606 by the wife of general Toyotomi Hideyoshi to honor her late husband.
The complex retains several of its earliest features including historic gardens, several traditional tea houses (reportedly designed by famous 16th century tea master Sen-no-Rikyu or his students) a memorial hall shrine where the temple’s founder and her husband are buried, as well as the general’s intricate jinbaori over-armor coat stitched with gold and silver thread. In some areas of the temple makie lacquering—a common decorative technique common in the Momoyama period that incorporates powdered gold and silver into the lacquer paint while still wet, creating artistic patterns and designs—embellishes stairs and smaller shrines. The temple museum has scrolls and relics from the Kodai-ji and other nearby temples.
The temple is located at 526 Shimogawara-cho Kodaji, Higashiyama-ku. Access is by city bus 206 or 207 (get off at Higashiyama Yasui). From the JR Kyoto Station or Kintetus Kyoto train stations, the temple is a 15-minute taxi ride. No private car parking is available.
The temple and museum are open daily from 9am-5pm. Admission includes both attractions and is sold from a bank of ticket windows near the entrance for $5.80 (600Y) for adults and $2.40 (250Y) for children. A tri-pass, which also includes entry to nearby Entokuin temple, costs $8.70 (900Y).
The Kodai-ji Temple has special late hours—with white lights and paper lanterns illuminating blooming cherry trees or colorful autumn leaves—for limited weeks in spring, summer and fall.