Summer is coming to an end soon and that means two things for Japan, cooler weather and autumn leaves. Japan takes this season very seriously. In the spring time, Japan has Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) and in autumn, there are beautiful colorful leaves. It is not just about looking at the vibrant colors, but it is also a very social season. Of course you can enjoy the autumn leaves all over Japan, but Kyoto and its topography creates some of the best viewing locations. Within Kyoto, Kodaiji Temple stands out because of the areas to view the leaves changing.
Kodaiji Temple was built in 1606 and remains culturally and historically important to Japan. It is a temple based in the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. In fact, the famous Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) and his wife Kita no Mandokoro (北政所) are even enshrined here. The temple houses a number of cultural treasures ranging from paintings to whole buildings and even has a bronze bell dating back to 1606.
Along with the main hall, one can enjoy a calming rock garden as well as a Tsukiyama style garden which is characterized by man made hills and purposefully placed rocks. This garden is even recognized by the Japanese government as an important historical site. During autumn, these gardens are even more beautiful. People can also visit the actual building where Hideyoshi and his wife are buried. On the property, there are also two tea houses to relax and eat a snack. There are also magnificent pieces of makie (蒔絵) on display which Kodaiji Temple is famous for. Makie is type of Japanese lacquer art. Makie at Kodaiji Temple is so special that it is its own type of makie that is reproduced throughout Japan.
There is never a bad time to visit this temple but there are certainly better times to visit. In spring and autumn, Kodaiji Temple hosts a number of art events taking place the gardens. Depending on the time of day, there will be spectacular views. The gardens are illuminated at night and visitors pay 600 yen to see the beauty of the natural environment. One of the main attractions if the reflective ponds. When the garden is illuminated, there is an otherworldly feel.
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Address: 526 Shimogawara-cho Kodaiji, Higashi Ward, Kyoto
Access: 20 minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station (Keihan Line)
600 yen (adults)
250 yen (students)
Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Website: Kodaiji Temple