Kodaiji Temple Illuminations & Projection Mapping

Kodaiji Temple Illuminations & Projection Mapping 高台寺

Jake Davies

Kodaiji Temple, the Rinzai Zen temple founded in 1606 by Nene, the widow of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, is a very popular spot for visitors to Kyoto.

Kodaiji Temple, Kyoto.
Kodaiji Zen Temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto, illuminated for the special autumn night-time opening
Kodaiji Temple illuminations in Kyoto.
Kangetsu-dai roofed corridor lit up at night at Kodaiji Temple

Kodaiji's extensive gardens which include bamboo forest and ponds is designated as both a National Historic Site and a Place of Scenic Beauty.

With it's historic architecture, some brought here from the dismantled Fushimi Castle, lots of artwork by famous painters, several tea houses, some by renowned Tea Master Sen no Rikyu, plenty of examples of maki-e lacquer work, and, all this combined with the approach to the temple, which passes through what many consider to be the best neighborhood in Kyoto, with great views from the temple over Kyoto, it is not surprising that Kodaiji is usually crowded.

Kodaiji Temple, Kyoto.
Garyuchi Pond in Kodaiji Temple during night-time illuminations
Kodaiji Temple illuminations in Kyoto.
Illuminated bamboo forest at Kodaiji Temple

Three times a year, in the spring, summer and fall, the temple is open at night when everything is illuminated.

The spring season runs from mid-March to early May, which includes the time when the cherry blossoms in Kyoto are in bloom.

The summer season runs from August 1st to August 18th. Lush green dominates the gardens, but the evening illumination will be a little cooler than during the day.

The fall season runs from late October to early December, and the autumn colors will be at their best then.

In each season the gates at Kodaiji open just after sunset and close at 9.30pm, but you don't have to leave until 10pm. During the night-time openings all the usual sights and buildings are open including the museum and Otama-ya, with its interior lacquered with gold designs.

Additionally in the summer session there is an exhibit of modern sculptures in the garden.

What makes the illuminations at Kodaiji even more special is the times when they have projection mapping. Projection mapping is the fairly new technology that allows computer-generated 3D images and video to be projected onto three dimensional objects, like buildings.

Very popular all over the world, the one here at Kodaiji is a dynamic 3 minute show with sound that is viewed from the Hojo. Each year the show is a different Buddhist-themed display projected onto the raked-sand karesansui garden (Hashintei) and the gate behind it. Forget about leisurely enjoying it though. When the three minutes are up you are quickly bundled out of the room and the next group herded in.

On the nights when the projection mapping events are held there are usually long lines of people waiting to get in, however if you buy your tickets in advance there is no waiting. For the regular illumination days it tends to be less crowded after 9pm.

Kodaiji Temple, Kyoto.
The Hashin-tei garden at Kodaiji Temple during a projection mapping event
Kodaiji Temple illuminations in Kyoto.
The narrow streets and alleys in the vicinity of Kodaiji are even more atmospheric after dark

Kodaiji Temple Access

Kodaiji Temple
Shimogawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075 561 9966

Kodaiji Temple is a 10-minute walk from the Higashiyama Yasui bus stop. Bus #206 from Kyoto Station. From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station or Keihan Shijo Station take bus #207 to the Higashiyama Yasui bus stop.

Entry for the illuminations is 600 yen for adults, 250 yen for kids.

A visit to Kodaiji can be combined with trips to Maruyama Park, Ryozen Kannon, Kenninji Temple, Yasaka Jinja and Kiyomizudera. The Okazaki museum area and Heian Shrine are to the north across Sanjo dori.

The famous, Michelin starred restaurant Kikunoi is close by.

Kodaiji Map

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