Komyo-in (光明院) is one of the many sub-temples of Tofuku-ji that one can visit, but as it is outside the compound walls it is not as well known as, say, Ryogin-an (龍吟庵). In fact, many sub-temples of Tofuku-ji are outside its boundaries, but anyway, Komyo-in is also a bit further in a less travelled direction. And also has no website or wiki entry. Which makes it our little secret... One problem is that the little information on the web or in the (Japanese) pamphlet means that even though the place is great I don't have a lot of historical notes. In fact the only one I have is this: Komyo-in was founded in 1391.
Entering the temple can already be problematic: the entrance is not always manned and they ask to put 300 yen in a nice and tall bamboo trunk. Fine, if you have the change, but I once paid 500 because that's all I had. From the entrance a row several tatami rooms lead to a final corner room which has a commanding view on the garden. The latter has an interesting and unique design with (and that's the important part) lot's of maples and satsuki bushes. That means beautiful in the two best seasons: autumn and late spring. A cherry blossom tree is also sprinkling petals the garden moss. All of this is on the edge of the garden though; its centre is a moss-and-rock design with numerous standing stones. As the garden is placed in a slight depression, the raked gravel, symbolizing water, can really become water if it rains a lot!
Continue in the same direction and you will find another room where you can have tea (on the left) and a small tsukubai (蹲) basin at the corner of the garden and at the foot of a small flight of stairs leading to a higher observation room. The room is not normally opened, but it can happen outside the peak seasons. Once you have explored the left part of the buildings surrounding the garden, go back towards the entrance by walking on the terrace on the edge of the garden. You will reach another corner room (on your left) with a beautiful round window. The design of the lattice of this window is unique (but similar designs exist). If you continue along the garden's edge on the narrow terraces, you will reach the mail hall (本堂) which also has a beautiful view on the garden.
Komyo-in is much quieter than the rest of Tofuku-ji, even during the peak seasons. If you look for its name on the web be sure to add "tofuku-ji" to your queries because there are three temples in Kyoto which have this name, and there are many more Komyo-ji's.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Tōkō-ji 東光寺 (200m), Funda-in 芬陀院 (290m), Tentoku-in 天得院 (320m), Sokushū-in 即宗院 (370m), Ryōgin-an 龍吟庵 (380m), Kaizan-dō 開山堂 (430m), Ikkai-in 一華院 (450m), Goshanotaki Jinja 五社之瀧神社 (470m), Reiun-in 霊雲院 (520m), Fushikura Daijin 伏倉大神 (520m),...
External links: Kyoto Navi, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, Marutake, そうだ京都, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 東山, Higashiyama, Tofuku-ji, 東福寺, temple, 寺院, 仏閣, 光明院, Komyo-in, subtemple, 塔頭