Toji Temple (literally the east temple), with it’s impressive five-storied pagoda, is a well-known symbol of Kyoto. Conveniently located near Kyoto Station, this is a temple that you definitely don`t want to miss. You may be hesitant to visit a temple with kids, but Toji Temple is actually a great place to visit with kids as they can enjoy the spaciousness of the temple grounds while your family experiences the over 1200 year history of the temple.
About Toji Temple in Kyoto
Toji Temple was founded in 796, early in the Heian Period, just after the capital of Japan was moved to Kyoto. It was one of only three Buddhist temples allowed in the capital at the time alongside Saiji Temple (the west temple) and Shingon-in which was located in the Heian Palace. Toji Temple is the only one of the three still remaining and is one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Kyoto. Toji Temple is associated with Kobo-Daishi and religious services are held for him throughout the year. The principal image of Toji Temple is Yakushi Nyorai, the medicine Buddha.
Reason 1 – National Treasures
Toji Temple has four structures which have been designated as National Treasures of Japan. These include the Five-storied Pagoda, the Golden Hall or Kondo, the hall known as Miedo, and the Lotus Flower Gate.
The most famous structure of Toji Temple is probably the five-storied pagoda. As you arrive in Kyoto by bullet train from Osaka you can see the gorgeous pagoda welcoming you to the ancient capital city. Originally built in the 9th century, the pagoda has been destroyed and rebuilt four times. It was designated a National Treasure in 1952. It stands 54.8 meters (180 feet) high and is the tallest wooden tower in Japan. You can`t normally enter the pagoda, but there are certain times of year when it is open for you to look in from outside. Inside are many relics, sculptures and paintings and at ground level there are statues of four Buddhas facing four different directions. You will definitely want pictures of the pagoda from various angles.
Kondo – Golden Hall
The Kondo is the main hall of Toji Temple. The original Kondo was the first building to be built when construction of Toji Temple began in the year 796. In 1596 a large earthquake did a lot of damage to Toji Temple, but the Kondo was rebuilt by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. It houses a statue of Yakushi, the medicine Buddha, that is over 400 years old.
Miedo – Dedicated to Kobo Daishi
The Miedo stands on the ground where the original residence of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Toji Temple, once stood. It is opened on the 21st of each month when a memorial service for Kobo Daishi is held. The 21st is significant because Kobo Daishi died on March 21. There is also a large flea market held on that day each month. You can find a variety of things there such as antiques, pottery, clothes, some different foods, etc. The flea market held at Toji Temple on December 21st is the last of the year and is usually by far the largest of the year.
Lotus Flower Gate (Rengen-mon)
This is the oldest among all the gates at Toji Temple. It is said that when Kobodaishi was secluded, the deity Fudomyo-oh saw him off at this gate in tears. At that time, lotus flowers bloomed at the feet of Kobodaishi and that is why the gate is known as Lotus Gate (in Japanese, lotus is rengen and gate is mon).
Reason 2 – Beautiful in All Seasons
Toji Temple, especially it’s five-storied pagoda is known as a symbol of Kyoto. As a resident of Kyoto for almost three years now, it has become something I am familiar with seeing and if I have been out of town, seeing Toji Temple makes me feel like I have returned home. Toji Temple is my favorite spot to take visitors and I can’t even count how many times I have been in the past almost three years.
Throughout the year you can see the grounds of Toji Temple in various states. The most popular seasons are probably spring and autumn, but it is also incredibly beautiful and worth seeing in summer and winter, too. No matter which season you visit Kyoto, Toji Temple is a spot you should see.
If you are lucky in January, you may get to see the grounds of Toji Temple blanketed in snow.
From early February you can see different varieties of plum blossoms and from around early March, cherry blossoms.
In early February the trees are still quite bare, but blooming plum blossoms are one of the first signs that spring is coming.
When the cherry blossoms bloom Toji Temple becomes a sea of light pink, from the blossoms on the trees to the petals which fall into the pond with each gust of wind.
In summer, the lotus flowers with their vivid green leaves fill the water around the temple and the shots you can get of Toji Temple with the bright blue summer sky are incredible.
And of course in autumn you can see the gorgeous reds, oranges, and yellows in the leaves on the various trees around the temple grounds. No matter which season you visit Toji Temple, you will no doubt be able to get beautiful pictures of the scenery and of your family surrounded by this beautiful place.
Reason 3 – Fun for Kids
While Toji Temple is filled with National Treasures and has a rich history, it can also be a lot of fun for kids. It is spacious, there is a pond, and you can eat soft serve ice cream when you go there! What kid doesn’t like all of these things?
Lots of space to run around
The grounds of Toji Temple are quite spacious. There is a large area surrounding the temple as well as within the area of the temple you enter upon paying for entry in which kids could easily run around. The ground, however, is mostly gravel, so if your kids do run around, please keep a close eye on them.
Unexpected Pond (Hyotan-ike)
To the north side of the five-storied pagoda is a pond. These days it is like a garden in which you can stroll through and see different plants blooming depending on the season. The pond has an interesting, almost unbelievable history! Long ago, strong winds would cause the five- storied pagoda to lean to the south side. Knowing it would be difficult to build another pagoda to replace the leaning one, they decided to try something. They thought if they dug a large hole on the opposite side, the north side, that it would fix the lean of the pagoda, and it did! Later on the large hole filled up with rain water creating the Unexpected Pond. It’s up to you to decide if you believe this story or not! Kids love the Unexpected Pond because it has koi swimming in it. You can also see turtles swimming or even sunning on the large rocks in the middle of it now and then! You can also see cherry blossom petals floating on it in spring, and autumn colored leaves in the fall.
Japanese sweets and Ice Cream
What kid, or adult for that matter, doesn`t love to eat sweets? Just inside the entry to the paid portion of Toji Temple grounds, you will find a small shop which sells some Japanese sweets like boiled adzuki beans (sweet red beans) with mochi and soft serve ice cream in vanilla and matcha flavors. There are many benches near the shop for you to sit and enjoy your sweets as you are surrounded by the serene Toji Temple grounds. I prefer to eat after walking around the grounds, but my daughter usually wants matcha ice cream as soon as I tell her we are going to Toji Temple. It seems that for her Toji Temple and matcha soft serve ice cream go hand in hand.
Toji Temple is Great for Visiting with Kids
Its convenient location near Kyoto Station is just one of the reasons Toji Temple is a great spot to see with kids when you visit Kyoto with your family. At Toji Temple you can see four National Treasures and no matter which season you are there, you are sure to be taken away with the temple’s beauty. Also, your kids will enjoy running around, seeing the koi and turtles in the pond, and having sweets, when you visit Toji Temple with your kids. I hope you will go to Toji Temple with your entire family, but if you aren’t totally convinced your child will enjoy it, please don’t hesitate to contact us about our Kids Club. We can take care of your child while you enjoy visiting Toji Temple on your own, without kids!
More tips for Kyoto with kids from local moms
To make sure families fully enjoy Kyoto’s charm, we, local moms started Kyoto with Kids services. We are continuously developing programs which parents and kids can both enjoy. Please check out our Kyoto with Kids services developed by local moms!
Toji Temple – Information
・From JR Kyoto Station Hachijo-guchi – about a 15 minute walk
・From Kintetsu Toji Station – about a 10 minute walk
・From Hankyu Omiya Station – take bus 18, 71, or 207 and get off at Toji Higashi-mon Mae
Address – Kyoto-shi Minami Ward Kujo-cho 1
Hours – 5:00 – 17:00
Phone – 075-691-3325
Homepage http:// https://toji.or.jp/en/