(東寺, East Temple)
#toji #pagoda #kukai
The Spirit of To-ji Temple
Even if you are staying in Kyoto only for a few days do not hesitate to visit To-ji Temple (East Temple). You will never regret it!
The precincts of temple are very near Kyoto Station and can be easily reached on foot from there. Its dominant Five-storied Pagoda, the tallest wooden tower in Japan, can be seen from many places in Kyoto and makes it really easy to find. Except for the days when the flea market is held (21st of each month), the place is quiet and breathes the atmosphere of passed centuries.
Pagoda in winter
The temple was founded in 796, only two years after the capital was moved to Kyoto. The main role of To-ji Temple, its companion Sai-ji Temple (West Temple) and the Rashomon Gate(羅生門) between them was to protect the nation against any possible spiritual evil. When emperor entrusted them to Kobo Daishi (空海：Kukai), the Shingon Buddhist sect founder, To-ji Temple became well-known for Esoteric Buddhism they practiced.
Look at Kondo Hall through Nandaimon Gate(南大門)
When you take a closer look at the structures you can even now see and understand the original architectonic style. The temple´s compounds are filled with inexhaustible amount of very important cultural property and national treasures. Some of the buildings are the real treasures themselves. Five-storied Pagoda, Kondo (Main Hall), Kodo (Lecture Hall), Miedo (Residence of Monk Kukai) and Nandaimon Gate are the most important.
Pagoda, Kodo and Kondo
Taking photographs and videos inside of the buildings is strictly prohibited. Therefore it is necessary to come and see all those beautiful Buddhist statues for yourselves. But trust me that when you see the sculptures inside of Kondo, Kodo, Pagoda and Miedo the beauty and the atmosphere will definitely take your breath away.
Self-service behind Miedo Hall
Miedo Hall (御影堂)
There is a special ritual at Miedo Hall every morning. It starts at 6:00 and it is open to anyone. I am sure that coming to this place and contemplate in the morning would be a really nice way to start a new day. You can also have some tea for free at any time of day. A big teapot is always behind the Miedo where you can have some by yourself.
Two monks in front of Miedo Hall
Kodo (金堂) and Kondo Hall (講堂)
Inside of Kodo you can notice that the national treasures are actually the smaller sculptures and the big ones are “only” important cultural property. The reason is quite simple. During the many fires it was just impossible to move the big ones fast enough and save them. Therefore only the small ones could have been saved and did not have to be carved again. This fact of course plays its role in deciding what will become national treasure and what will not.
There are many and many small things, details and places where you can always discover something new and special that you have not noticed before. I would personally recommend to you the two lanterns close to Miedo. There is a small temple building on the north side right in front of Miedo. I checked those lanterns many times and I have always found something I have not seen before. The various details are just amazing.
Touch for luck. The lantern on the right side was obviously touched by much more people than the one on the left side.
Dragon on the lantern
One of the guys from the lantern
During the flea market
To-ji Temple is a splendid place, full of spirituality, art and magic. It is beautiful in any season of the year. I am sure that this could be the right place to begin your tour in Kyoto.