Koto-in (高桐院) is probably the most popular temple in Daitoku-ji (大徳寺). It was established in 1601 as a family temple by the famous military leader Hosokawa Tadaoki. Hosokawa was not only a successful warrior, he was also very cultivated, intelligent and open-minded. He was therefore not particularly worried by the then illegal beliefs of his wife who was Christian. Hosokawa devoted the end of his life to studying zen Buddhism and was a distinguished disciple of renowned tea master Sen Rikyu. The interest that Hosokawa had in tea explains the presence of two tea houses on the temple's grounds, named Shoko-ken and Horai. The tomb of Hosokawa and his wife are in a corner of the temple gardens.
The temple fame comes from its maples that produce beautiful colours in autumn. The long and narrow path from the temple gates to its main buildings is a very popular photo opportunity in autumn. Interestingly, that part of the temple can be accessed without charge. Anyone interested in shooting there should arrive at the right time of the season, and at least one hour before the temple's official opening time as the front gates open earlier. As you can imagine, the long path does not know more than 30 seconds without people for the rest of the day.
After this path and a smaller gate the visitor enters the temple itself. After the entrance the main hall and renowned garden is on the left. Expect to see people queuing at the entrance before the opening time and running to the main hall to take this "Koto-in nobody" moment you only see in magazines. My personal experience is that you have roughly 46 seconds to take this shot if you're the first one in the queue. It is this temple that I first witnessed Japanese people fighting (verbally) about missed photo opportunities. Hint: Japanese don't often do that, but when they do they are loud, especially in a quiet place like this. It is one of the reasons that many other temples have now forbidden photographs, and one can certainly understand that. Anyway, the place is definitely worth it, and if you don't like crowds or elbowing grand-ma's you can always go during the other 50 weeks of the year when Koto-in almost desert.
The main garden is a simple flat moss surface with a single lantern and several maples cropping out. The background is mostly bamboos. At the north end of the hall you will find slippers that allow you to walk in the garden (but not on the moss!). There you will find the tomb of Hosokawa and his wife, as well as a very nice tsukubai basin (蹲) which, in autumn, is covered with maple leaves.
After strolling in the garden you can go back to the entrance and explore the right side of the temple (which you may have seen during your stroll). At the end of all the corridors is the small but beautiful tea room of the temple.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Gyokurin-in 玉林院 (70m), Kōro-an Tea House 皐盧庵茶舗 (100m), Kōrin-in 興臨院 (190m), Daikō-in 大光院 (190m), Sōken-in 総見院 (200m), Zuihō-in 瑞峯院 (210m), Ryōgen-in 龍源院 (270m), Imamiya-jinja 今宮神社 (290m), Ōbai-in 黄梅院 (300m), Takeisao-jinja 建勲神社 (490m),...
External links: ウィキペディア, Wikipedia, Wikipédia, Kyoto Navi, Trip Advisor, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, Inside Kyoto, そうだ京都, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 北区, Kita-ku, 大徳寺, Daitoku-ji, temple, 寺院, 仏閣, Koto-in, 高桐院, subtemple, 塔頭