Daikaku-ji (大覚寺) is, with Tenryuji (天龍時), one of the major temples in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. Daikaku-ji is in fact also called the Saga Imperial Palace, for it used to be an imperial palace before the Saga emperor converted it to a temple in 876 to show his devotion in the teachings of the Shingon Buddhist sect.
The temple grounds can be divided in two sections. The first one is the lake around which cherry trees blossom in spring. With the bright red pagoda in the background in makes a perfect Kodak-photo-spot. A small red bridge and a stone torii gate add a nice touch to the atmosphere. The north part of this section, behind the pagoda, is wilder and does not have any major buildings. It does, however, features a nice bamboo forest that I recommend (especially in the summer, but you shouldn't visit Kyoto in the summer anyway ;)
The temple buildings themselves are in the west part of the grounds, and are accessed separately. A large zen garden and several halls are connected by open corridors (or covered alleys, depending on your point of view). Nightingale floorings can be heard here and there. Given the number of connected buildings it's easy to miss something, so I recommend following the arrows. At the west side of the temples is a large terrace overlooking the lake. One not-so-nice thing in this section is the new grey concrete octagonal hall which is completely out of place, IMHO. At the entrance of the temple, before you remove your shoes, you may see an exhibit of ikebana on your left. Some are really impressive and beautiful.
Daikaku-ji can be accessed by simply walking north from the Saga-Arashiyama station (10~15min). Several other temples are located in the area: Hokyo-in 宝筺院 (best in autumn), Jikishi-an (直指庵), Rokuou-in (鹿王院) (south of the station, and also best in autumn) and of course the whole series of temples at the foot of the Arashiyama hills: Jojakko-ji (常寂光寺), Seiryoji (清涼寺), the Rakushisha hermitage (落柿舎), etc, etc.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Jikishi-an 直指庵 (630m), Seiryō-ji 清涼寺 (750m), Hōkyō-in 宝筺院 (930m), Kachū-an 霞中庵 (960m), Enri-an 厭離庵 (1.1km), Heian-kyō 平安郷 (1.1km)
External links: Website, ウィキペディア, Wikipedia, Wikipédia, Kyoto Navi, Trip Advisor, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, Marutake, そうだ京都, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 嵐山, arashiyama, Daikaku-ji, 大覚寺, 嵯峨山, temple, 寺院, 仏閣