Zen Life: Temples, rock gardens, and bamboo forests all in one.
If your image of Japan is peaceful temples and tranquil natural scenery, Daitoku-ji will bring it all to life.
This enormous Buddhist temple complex, tucked away in the northwestern area of Kyoto, is home to more than 20 sub temples. Each one has its own private zen garden or small bamboo forest. Daitoku-ji isn’t as well known as some of the other temples and shrines in Kyoto. Due to this, along with the sheer size of the grounds, you are sure to find a spot in solitude to experience the real zen of Japan.
Depending on the season, you can enjoy special openings of some of the temples, while others are open all year round. The temple is especially scenic in autumn for fall foliage, peaking in mid-November.
Three of the most popular temples that are open year-round are: Koto-in Daisen-in and Ryogen-in.
Walk through the moss covered bamboo forest and explore this 17th-century house. Make sure to ask the attendant for some fresh brewed green tea and sweets for ¥400. Then, find a moment of relaxation, sipping tea and listening to the bamboo stalks clack against each other in the wind.
Put away your camera in this temple and force yourself to experience the beauty before you without a lens. Check out the celebrated rock gardens that wrap around a traditional Buddhist style altar. Join a zazen (sitting) meditation class and learn how to meditate from a Zen Buddhist.
Find a peaceful place to experience the smallest dry landscape garden in Japan. Admire the precision of the raked rocks, a symbol of water surrounding the temple grounds. Wander around a variety of other gardens and discover the symbolic meaning of each moss covered rock and deliberately placed tree.
While this temple complex can take hours to fully discover, keep in mind that a lot of the sub-temples charge a separate entrance fee.