Toji Temple

Toji Temple

Travel Guide


Toji Temple (East Temple), which is known for its high pagoda tower (the tallest wooden pagoda tower in Japan), is the oldest temple in Kyoto. The temple premises contain a Kondo (Main Hall), Kodo (Lecture Hall) and Meido (also known as Daishodo, where Monk Kobo Daishi lived). All these buildings are designated as national treasures by the Japanese government. On addition to the pagoda, the temple is known for its Buddhist sculptures, a pond, and the Rakunan school (Kyoto's most prestigious high school). Toji Temple is UNESCO world heritage site.

Toji Temple is a Buddhist temple of the Shingon sect in Kyoto.

Many buildings on the Toji Temple permises retain their original layout and architectural style. The buildings are a treasure house of Esoteric Buddhist art, due to it's large number of cultural assets brought back from China such as old Buddhist statues, carvings, magnificent paintings, artistic handicrafts etc.


During the year 794, the capital of Japan was moved from Nara to Kyoto by then Emperor Kammu. To commemorate this move, Emperor Kammu built two guardian temples in Kyoto city at the south gateway of the city; one facing the east (Toji Temple) and facing the west (Saiji Temple). Both temples were the only Buddhist temples officially allowed in Heiankyo at the time. They stood alongside the Rashomon, the main gate to the Heian capital.

About thirty years later in 832 Emperor Saga honored Kobo Daishi Kukai (774-835) founder of the Shingon Buddhism, with Toji Temple and gave it the official name Kyo-o-gokoku-ji (the Temple for the Defense of the Nation by Means of the King of Doctrines), which means the temple that guards the capital and the land by virtue of Ninno-gokokukyo (the main sutra of the Shingon sect). Monk Kukai made Toji Temple the central seminary of Esoteric Buddhism and added various other buildings to it. Saiji Temple disappeared in the 16th century. The reason was bad irrigation of Ukyo-ku and the lack of funds to maintain it.

A legend says that at the time of a great drought, Kuukai, the priest at Toji Temple, and Shubin, his colleague at Saiji Temple, were both praying for the rainfall. Kuukai succeeded where Shubin had failed, and Shubin, envious, shot an arrow at Kuukai. At that time a Jizo appeared and took the arrow instead of Kuukai, saving his life. You can find the Jizo in question near the ruins of Rashomon . It has been chipped where the arrow hit it.

Toji Temple - Nandaimon Nandaimon
Toji Temple's main gate on Kujo Street is called Nandaimon Gate. The original burnt down and was replaced by this eight pillared gate, which was brought from outside Sanjusangendo Temple in 1894. Daidaimon is designated as Important Cultural Heritage.

Toji Temple - Kondo Kondo
The Kondo, one of Toji Temple's original structures, is the temple's main hall and largest building. It is designated as the National Treasure and is representative building of Momoyama period. Destroyed by a large fire in 1486, the building was reconstructed in 1603 by HIdeyori Toyotoi, the son of warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi, in a contemporary architecture style and houses Toji Temple's main object of worship, a large wooden statue of the Yakushi Buddha, flanked by his two attendants, the Nikko and Gakko Bodhisattvas.

Toji Temple - Kodo Kodo
Designated as Important Cultural Heritage, the red-lacquered Lecture Hall (Kodo) contains twenty-one Buddhist statues. These twenty-one Buddhist statues are arranged according to the Mikkyo Mandala described in the main sutra of Esoteric Buddhism (Shingon teachings), with the principal Buddha (Dainichi-nyorai) at the center. The original was built by Kukai in 825, though the present building is rebuilt in 1491. To construct it, carpenters used a variety of different skills, not only Japanese ones but also Chinese techniques.

Toji Temple - Five Story Pagoda Five Story Pagoda
Toji Temple's five story pagoda originally dates from 826 and was then rebuilt in 1644. It stands 57 meters tall, making it the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan, and has become a symbol of both the temple and Kyoto as it can be seen from many places across the city. The ground floor of the pagoda houses four smaller Buddha statues and is opened for a short period over New Year and has Esoteric Buddhist (Mikkyo) illustrations within.

Toji Temple - Mieido Mieido (Daishido)
The Mieido where Monk Kobo Daishi lived was burned down in 1379. It was rebuilt the following year and ten years later a statue of Monk Kobo Daishi was enshrined. The Mieido houses a statue of Kukai and his personal Fudo-Myoo. These are not shown to the public (they are considered to be too sacred).

Travel Advice

Flea market (also called Kobo-san)

A popular flea market is held on the 21st of each month at Toji Temple from 5 am until around 16:30 in the afternoon.

Traditionally Japanese have believed that the deities or the Buddha have had relationships between their world and ours at the festivals of temples or shrines. Therefore people believe that they gain more merit when they visit shrines or temples on festival days. During the Heian era, the priest Kukai, who was the abbot of Toji Temple, died on March 21st. To commemorate this great man’s passing, people started to hold an outdoor market festival on the 21st day of each month.

In the market, 1,200 to 1,300 venders selling a variety of antiques, art, clothes, pottery, some food, and typical second-hand flea market goods. By far the largest Kobo-san is held on December 21, as it is the last of the year. Every month, more than 200,000 of local people and visitors from all over Japan and around the world visit Toji Temple to enjoy its market festival in the shadow of the great five-storey pagoda.

A similar market is held on the 25th of every month at Kitano Tenmangu, also called Tenjin market. A Kyoto proverb proclaims, "Fair weather at Toji Temple market means rainy weather at Tenjin market," calling to mind Kyoto's fickle weather.

A smaller, less-crowded, antique-oriented market is held at the Toji Temple grounds on the first Sunday of each month.

Saiji Temple

Both Toji Temple and Saiji Temple occupied a square site of approximately 300m by 300m situated symmetrically on both sides of the Suzaku Avenue (Suzaku-oji, present-day Senbon-dori), just north of the great Rashomon gate along the southern edge of the city. It is considered that the layout and the scale are the same. While Toji Temple has survived (albeit rebuilt) into modern times, Saiji Temple was burnt in 990 and 1233, then abandoned and never rebuilt. Now a small park in Minami-ku, Kyoto, commemorates the temple at the site, a little west and north of the intersection of Kujo street and Senbon street.



Address 1 Kujo-cho, Minami-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Phone 075-691-3325
Admission Free Tickets required for facilities
Hours 05:00 to 17:30  
Closed Open 7 Days a Week
Duration 40 minutes
Getting There By Train
13 minutes ride by City Bus No.78 or 19 from Karasuma Exit of JR Kyoto Station to the Toji Minamimon-mae bus stop, then walk approximately 1 minute.
6 minutes ride by City Bus No.42 from Karasuma Exit of JR Kyoto Station to the Toji Higashimon-mae bus stop, then walk approximately 1 minute.
10 minutes ride by City Bus No.16 from Hachijo Exit of JR Kyoto Station to the Toji Nishimon-mae bus stop, then walk approximately 1 minute.
9 minutes ride by City Bus No.78 or 19 from Hachijo Exit of JR Kyoto Station to the Toji Minamimon-mae bus stop, then walk approximately 1 minute.
5 minutes ride by City Bus No.16 from Hachijo Exit of JR Kyoto Station to the Toji Nishimon-mae bus stop, then walk approximately 1 minute.
1 minute walk from JR Kyoto Station.
10 minute walk from Toji Station on Kintetsu Corporation Kyoto Line.
Take City Bus No.18, 71 or 207 from Omiya Station on the Hankyu Railway Kyoto Honsen to the Toji Higashimon-mae bus stop, then walk approximately 1 minute.
Get off at Toji Higashimon-mae, Toji Minamimon-mae, Kujo Omiya or Toji Nishimon-mae when taking City Bus, then walk approximately 1 minute.

By Car
Take Meishin Expressway to Kyoto-minami exit and take National Highway route 1. It is approximately 3.5 kilometers 10 minutes from exit.
Parking Paid parking available

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