Tentoku-in is one of the numerous sub-temples of Tofuku-ji. Built in the mid 14th century, the temple was destroyed in 1615, then rebuilt in 1789. Tentoku-in is nicknamed the "bell-flower temple" for its moss garden has a large number of purple and white Chinese bell flowers blooming in early autumn. The well known "inverted bell" window shape comes in fact from the shape of these flowers.
The temple is standing right next to a kindergarten, to which it may have donated some of its land. This is not uncommon in Kyoto. But coupled to the fact this temple is only open a few weeks per year, the average tourist may have a hard time to realize it's there, especially during recess :-) It gives the temple a convivial atmosphere, which is confirmed by the activities held here during the open season: concerts, lectures, games, bento-sharing, etc.
Tentoku-in is not large, and has one main moss garden of the karesansui type (dry landscape, "枯山水"). There is no sand/gravel area, just moss covering the grounds, with satsuki rhododendrons and rocks here and there. A few trees also nicely lock the perspective to make the place more... zen. The best season to view the temple garden is early autumn, when the purple flowers emerge from the moss. It may actually be the only season when the temple is open anyway. The photograph with the "inverted bell" window, the stone lantern and the flowers is considered a classic. Unfortunately there were no flowers when I visited ;(
When open, the temple keeps its doors open until relatively late (10pm?) for a "light-up". In recent years light-ups have become more and more common in Kyoto, as they are yet another way to make a few extra bucks for temples. Unfortunately for the photographer, harsh spotlights often make photography very hard. This is not the case of Tentoku-in so it's a good place to test your hand-held night shots techniques.
Tentoku-in is located almost exactly in front of Funda-in. If you're in a hurry, pick the latter.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Funda-in 芬陀院 (50m), Tōkō-ji 東光寺 (130m), Ikkai-in 一華院 (140m), Reiun-in 霊雲院 (190m), Kaizan-dō 開山堂 (210m), Ryōgin-an 龍吟庵 (230m), Sokushū-in 即宗院 (280m), Kōmyō-in 光明院 (320m), Shōkō-in 盛光院 (390m), Shōrin-ji 勝林寺 (400m),...
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, 天得院, Tentoku-in, subtemple, 塔頭