Daikaku-ji Temple

Daikaku-ji Temple © Iry

About Daikaku-ji Temple

Daikaku-ji temple was formerly the site of the private residence of Emperor Saga that had been constructed in the early Heian period  (794–1185) and in 876 it became the head temple of the Shingon Daikakuji head temple. Until the mid-19th century, emperors and princes served as the head priests here. During the Kamakura Period the emperors Go-Saga, Kameyama, and Go-Uda served here, and it was commonly called the Saga Imperial Palace. On the shrine grounds the old imperial palace’s Shishienden was put here, and also the Shoshinden from which Emperor Go-Uda conducted his cloistered rule, both of which are important cultural property. In each building there are beautiful wall paintings done by Sanraku Kano. In the Shoshinden there is the Sekkeisansuizu made by Watanabe Shiko. Additionally there is a Heart Sutra written by Emperor Saga at the recommendation of Kobo Daishi Kukai that began a long tradition of Heart Sutras that were hand copied by each emperor which are held here. In the main building Godaido is enshrined Fudomyo-o along with the 5 Great Wisdom Kings. The Osawa-no-ike on the premises is thought to be Japan’s oldest garden pond.

The birthplace of Ikebana

Daikaku-ji is commonly said to be the birthplace of ikebana, or Japanese flower arrangement. During the Heian period, Emperor Saga grew chrysanthemums on an island in the pond and handpicked them, and then arranged them in bowls. This is said to be the beginning of ikebana. In spring there is a flower arrangement festival and in fall the Saga Kiku-ten is held.

Osawa Pond

Osawa Pond is a 1km circumference pond that was built to imitate the Dongting Lake located in China. Around the pond there are about 650 cherries and maples, and in the pond itself are around 3000 lotuses growing wild. In pond there are two islands, Tenjin-shima and Kikugashima, along with the Teikoseki rock formation. These are placed in a way that mimics the basic form of Saga flower arrangement. In fall there are small ships that go into the pond from which you can appreciate the harvest moon, called the Kangetsu-no-Yube (Moon Viewing Evening), and even now you can ride in ships with heads like dragons and water fowl on them. Tea ceremonies, music concerts and more are frequently performed on the shrine grounds.


On the JR Sagano Line go to Saga Arashiyama Station (嵯峨嵐山駅) and walk 17 minutes, or from Arashiyama Station it is 23 minutes. From Kyoto Station you can take a Kyoto Bus or city bus for about a 1 hour ride and get off at the Daikaku-ji-mae stop (大覚寺前). Nearby there is also Seiryo-ji so you should try to visit both if you can. There is also a package plan for both Gio-ji and Daikaku-ji and this reduces the normal entrance fee of 800 yen to 600 yen.  There is about 25 minutes travel time between both temples, and there are maps available in 4 languages. 

Image Gallery: Daikaku-ji Temple

Description: Daikaku-ji Temple

Sights Daikaku-ji Temple (旧嵯峨御所 大覚寺門跡)
Address 4 Sagaōsawachō, Ukyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu
Phone / Fax Phone: 075-871-0071
Duration 40Minutes
Business Hours Monday:09:00-17:00 (Last entry by: 16:30)
Tuesday:09:00-17:00 (Last entry by: 16:30)
Wednesday:09:00-17:00 (Last entry by: 16:30)
Thursday:09:00-17:00 (Last entry by: 16:30)
Friday:09:00-17:00 (Last entry by: 16:30)
Saturday:09:00-17:00 (Last entry by: 16:30)
Sunday:09:00-17:00 (Last entry by: 16:30)
Admission Fee Pay admission: 500yen
Recommended Season
Spring (March - May)
Summer (June - August) Autumn (September - November) Winter (December - February)
Recommended target Family Couples Groups Infant & Toddler (ages 0-6) Child (ages 7-17) Single traveller

Map: Daikaku-ji Temple