Kyoto’s Must-See Sightseeing: Kodaiji Temple, its Atmospheric Approach and Yasaka Tower
In the previous article, I introduced the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the World Heritage-designated popular tourist spot in Kyoto. Here, I would like to bring you to Kodaiji Temple, which is about a 10 minute walk from Kiyomizu-dera and has the tombs of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the famous feudal lord, and his wife, Nene, along with Yasaka Tower and some other tourist features on the temple approach.
Slopes of Sannei-zaka and Ninen-zaka (On the Temple Approach)
Photo by flickr
Walking down from Kiyomizu-dera Temple, you will get to the slope areas with the famous areas called “Sannei-zaka (or Sannen-zaka)” and “Ninen-zaka.” These areas have many stylish cafes and souvenir shops and you will find yourself trapped amidst all those alluring options. How hard it is to proceed to the next destination!
Sannei-zaka is a slope people take when visiting Koyasu-no-to Tower, where people pray for a safe birth, as introduced in the previous article. And because “san-nei” sounds like “san-nen,” which means “three years,” the lower slope leading to Sannei-zaka came to be called “Ninenzaka,” which means “two years slope.”
Yasaka Tower (On the Temple Approach)
If you look left on the place where the two slopes meet up, you can see Yasaka Dori street, which is popular as a photo spot with Yasaka Tower in the background.
Yasaka Tower is a 46 meters tall five-story tower. The tower was erected by the Prince Shotoku, the famous ancient politician, and today has the first and the second floor open to public.
Nene Street (On the Temple Approach)
Photo by flickr
As you approach Kodaiji Temple, you leave the colorful area with many alluring commercial establishments and go into a more calm area with old buildings and stone pavement. The street around here is called “Nene Street” and is often featured in TV dramas.
Karamon Gate at the Entrance (Kodaiji Temple)
Karamon Gate stands at the entrance to Kodaiji Temple. It was at the end of December when I visited here, but I could still enjoy the beautifully colored leaves. The admission hours are extended to night time during the special period with the whole venue lit up with illuminations and the temple makes one of the best spots for viewing colored leaves especially at night.
Now let me explain to you a little bit about Kodaiji Temple. After Hideyoshi Toyotomi died, his wife Nene founded the temple in 1606 to pray for the repose of his dead soul. Because enormous financial aid was given for the construction by Ieyasu Tokugawa, who was motivated by a political aim in making such a contribution, the temple is said to have looked more gorgeous and magnificent at the time of the foundation. The temple has since suffered multiple fires and lost many of its buildings, but many of the remaining buildings are today designated as nationally important cultural assets.
Main Temple Hall and Garden (Kodaiji Temple)
Past Karamon Gate and following the suggested route, you will get to the main temple hall called “Hojo.” The garden overlooked from here features beautiful wave patterns created by raking the white gravel spread over the garden. The tender and noble personality of Nene seemed to be reflected in the beauty of the garden and it feels very soul-soothing.
Kaisando Hall and Kangetsudai (Kodaiji Temple)
Kaisando Hall in the back of the photo and Kangetsudai seen in the middle of the connecting corridor are both designated as nationally important cultural assets.
Kaisando Hall features the ceiling part of which was removed from Nene’s wagon and other part from Hideyoshi’s boat. Nene and Hideyoshi were married for love, which was very rare at the time when marriage was generally used for political purposes. It is also said that because Hideyoshi was of low social position, he had to marry Nene against her parents’ opposition.
Kangetsudai, literally meaning “moon viewing stand,” is designed as a place to view the moon. Nene and Hideyoshi must have enjoyed watching the moon from here. The quick-minded among you should be puzzled because this building was erected after the death of Hideyoshi. Yes, you are right. The “moon viewing stand” was originally installed at Fushimi Castle where Hideyoshi used to enjoy watching the moon before his death. It was removed from the castle and installed here. The ceiling here and that of Kaisando are both the reminder of the happy days of the couple.
Tsukimi: A Fall Tradition From the Heian Period
Otamaya: Mausoleum Featuring Gorgeous Lacquer Decoration (Kodaiji Temple)
Otamaya is a mausoleum dedicated to the souls of Nene and Hideyoshi and enshrines the wooden statues of the couple. It is designated as an important cultural asset. The actual body of Nene is said to be resting here, so I prayed for the repose of her soul.
The double door and the stairway of the mausoleum are decorated with gorgeous lacquer patterns (makie) in the 17th century Momoyama style. It can be said to be a reflection of Nene’s sensitivity towards beauty.
Admission Hours: 9 AM – 5:30 PM (Last Admission 5 PM)
Admission Fee: Adults: 600 Yen / High School and Junior High School Students: 250 Yen / Elementary School Students and Under: Free
Access: 15 Minutes by Bus from Kyoto Station / 5 Minutes from Higashiyama Yasui Bus Stop
This concludes the two-part series about Kiyomizu-dera Temple – Sanneizaka Slope/Ninenzaka Slope – Yasaka Tower – Kodaiji Temple, which are all must visit tourist spots in Kyoto. With a bit of preliminary knowledge, you will surely notice things you missed in the last visit. You can keep coming back and always discover something new with the buildings and other tourist attractions around here. All the tourist spots are within walking distance. Make sure to visit all of the spots introduced in the articles in your next visit to Kyoto.