Kodai-ji was founded in 1605 by a noblewoman named Kita-no-Mandokoro for her late husband Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The construction of the temple was performed by Hideyoshi's vassal, who later became shogun of Japan. Needless to say, all these noble people had money, which allowed Kodai-ji has been a major temple from day one. The first abott came from the nearby Kennin-ji(建仁寺), so that they share the same zen sect of Buddhism and the temples have kept a close relation ship ever since. Kodai-ji is not really a sub-temple of Kennin-ji though.
Kita-no-Mandokoro is better known as "Nene-san" in Kyoto. Like many widows of the time she became a nun after her husband death, taking the name Kodai-in (高台院), from where the temple name derives. She died in 1624, and her posthumous name became Kodai-in Kogetsu Shinko (高台院湖月心公). Nene is an important person in Kyoto's history, and a small narrow street bordered by traditional houses near Kodai-ji bears her name (the street goes around Entoku-in (圓徳院)). Like many temples Kodai-ji was ravaged by war, but most of the current buildings are actually original.
The garden of the temple was redesigned by landscape architect Kobori Ensyu from an older garden located there. It consists of two ponds with the Kansai-do in their centre and two bridges linking the various paths and buildings. In front of the main hall is a dry landscape garden with two cones of sand near its middle. This rock garden has the particularity of being changed by the monks regularly, according to the events held at the temple. The two small cones remain present in all designs though. Thus, chances are that whenever you visit the temple the design of the rock garden will be different. In some pictures below you can see a long dragon made of old roof tiles, as well as classic shape of clouds as represented in many historical drawings.
A little higher in the hill is the Otama-ya sanctuary, from which a narrow path climbs further to two tea houses (Kasa-tei 傘亭 and Shigure-tei 時雨亭) which were moved from Fushimi castle to Kodai-ji "a long time ago". The construction of the roof of the Kasa-tei resembles an umbrella with its radiating bamboo beams, hence its name (kasa means umbrella in Japanese). A similar construction can be found in the Rakushisha (落柿舎) in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto. The hill around the two tea houses has been seriously transformed in 2011: most trees were cut and bamboo fell. A pity, but it may have been necessary for the safety of the two tea houses.
Kodai-ji has one important sub-temple: Entoku-in (圓徳院), located just west of Kodai-ji. A museum containing artefacts from Kodai-ji is also located on Entoku-in grounds. A combination ticket is available to see all three places.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Ryōzen Kannon 霊山観音 (130m), Daiun-in 大雲院 (170m), Nene No Michi ねねの道 (180m), Tōkei-ji 東景寺 (240m), Hōkan-ji 法観寺 (280m), Chōraku-ji 長楽寺 (320m), Kongō-ji 金剛寺 (320m), Yasaka-jinja 八坂神社 (380m), Yasui Kompira-gū 安井金比羅宮 (430m), Daitō-in 大統院 (440m),...
External links: Website, ウィキペディア, Wikipedia, Wikipédia, Kyoto Navi, Trip Advisor, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, Inside Kyoto, Marutake, そうだ京都
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 東山, Higashiyama, 高台寺, Kodai-ji, temple, 寺院, 仏閣
Evening tea ceremony