Kyoto is known for having many large temples but one that doesn’t get as much attention is Daikakuji Temple up in the northwestern part of the city. Daikakuji was originally built around the year 814 as the palace of Emperor Saga and at the time was known as Saga-in. In 876, a bit over 30 years after Emperor Saga’s death, the palace was converted into a Buddhist temple and renamed Daikakuji. In the following centuries Daikakuji would be the retirement residence for several other emperors, and although they had officially abdicated their thrones these emperors still exerted a great deal of influence from within the temple’s walls. Daikakuji would burn down in 1336 but was rebuilt afterwards. The current version of Daikakuji that we see today is from the 1500s.
As you would expect from its history, Daikakuji’s interior feels like a mix of a temple and an imperial palace. There are rooms dedicated for religious purposes as well as ones that look like the emperor’s living spaces.
The various buildings of Daikakuji are connected by elevated, covered walkways. Carefully maintained gardens fill up the space between buildings and you can imagine a retired emperor strolling around the temple complex as he enjoyed his sunset years.
On the east side of the temple is Osawa Pond. This artificial lake may have been created before the original Daikakuji was built and was used by Emperor Saga for parties and boating. Osawa Pond was also a popular spot for moon viewing and enjoying the annual cherry blossoms that bloomed around the lake.
As I was looking around Osawa Pond I came across a group of four monks that were walking around and reciting their sutras in front of some of the temple buildings. I tried my best to stay out of their way and got a couple photos of them from a distance.
I finished up my time at Daikakuji by doing a full circuit walk around Osawa Pond. Daikakuji is a bit far from most of Kyoto’s major sightseeing attractions and consequently doesn’t get as many visitors as the big-name temples in the city but it’s easily worth a visit if you can spare the time to get out there.
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