Kodaiji Temple 高台寺
Located in a beautiful part of Higashiyama Ward, Kodaiji sits atop a slight hill. It was established in 1605 by the legendary Nene (Kodai-in), the widow of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in honor of her late husband, and financed by Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was responsible for later wiping out the family of Toyotomi.
Nene became a nun (ama) on the death of her husband to pray for his soul in the afterlife and she lived here at Kodaiji until her death in 1624 at age 76.
Much of the Kodaiji complex was destroyed in 1789 by fire. The only buildings to survive were Otama-ya, Kaison-do, Kangetsu-dai, Kasa-sai, and several others. The Kaison-do contains paintings by artists from the Kano and Tosa schools.
Kangetsu-dai is a roofed bridge that was brought from Fushimi Castle and was used as a moon-viewing platform by Hideyoshi. The bridge crosses a stream and Engetsu Pond and connects to the Kaison-do and Tamaya.
Kaison-do was dedicated to the founding priest of Kodaiji, Sanko Joeki, formerly the head priest at Kenninji Temple The walls and pillars are decorated with paintings by artists from the Tosa and Kano schools of painting including a superb dragon by Kano Eitoku (1543-90).
The Tamaya is a Momoyama Period marvel noted for its tatamaki-e done in gold. The building holds an image of Kannon and a minature shrine dedicated to Hideyoshi and one to his wife Nene.
Within the Kodaiji temple grounds, there is a lovely bamboo grove and several tea houses. The gardens at Kodaiji are the work of Enshu Kobori and the teahouses were designed by the legendary tea master Sen-no-Rikyu or his disciples. The gardens contain several ponds. One has an island in the shape of a turtle and one of the stone gardens represents a crane - both these creatures symbolize longevity.
The Omotemon Gate was brought here from Fushimi Castle, built by Hideyoshi, along with two summer houses: Shigure-tei (Shower of Rain) and Kasa-tei (Umbrella), which stand on a hill behind the mortuary chapel (Otamaya) containing the remains of Hideyoshi and Nene, a building known for its raised lacquer work (tatamaki-e) done in gold and silver. Shigure-tei, designed by Toyobo Sochin, was originally built for Hideyoshi's outlandish tea ceremony in 1587 at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, when he invited the whole world to attend.
Another fine tea ceremony house is Iho-an (The Cottage of Lingering Fragrances).
The view of other nearby Kyoto temples and down into the city center is stunning. Kodaiji is illuminated in the spring, autumn and late summer and open to the public for special evening viewing sessions.
Kodaiji Temple Access
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 605-0825
Tel: 075 561 9966
Admission: 600 yen; high school and junior high school age students 250 yen.
The admission fee includes entry to the Sho Museum.
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.
By bicycle see the route.
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.