Standing by Kenninji, Manjuji, Nanzenji, Tenryuji and Shokokuji as the Five Great Zen temples of Kyoto, Tofukuji is one among must visited spots across Kyoto of those who love religion or else, the quietness. Being the head temple of Tofukiji School of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, Tofukiji houses many outstanding structures of Zen architecture, including the Sanmon gate and the beautiful Zen garden. In 1236, the temple was born under the master hands of Kujo Michiie, who played an important role in Kamakura power as a great stateman and an imperial chancellor. Following his desire to create a temple complex reproducing the great temples of Nara prefecture, Tofukuji was named by taking pieces from names of Nara temples, consisting of Todaiji and Kofukuji temples.
No one knows whether the reason is the combination name of the two great temples or not, Tofukuji got its flourish period right after it was established, covering its shape over religion culture of even the whole Japan, remaining the position in the Five Great Temples of Kyoto by now. However, Tofukuji suffered so much from war as it was burnt sown by fires three times in turn in 1319, 1334 and 1336. Even all the original buildings were burned in these fires. Anyway, reconstruction helped to retain the magnificent scale characteristic of a Zen temple.
The top attraction of Tofukuji, the Sanmon gate is a large triple one, considered as the oldest Zen main gate in Japan, designated as one of the Japanese National Treasure Buildings in 1952. Even though the date could be earlier, the gate was repaired in 1425 after fire and there was a big renovation lasting from 1969 to 1978 taking about 2.5 million dollars. It is a kind of giant two storied structure reaching the height of 22 meters, constructed under methods of the Great Budda's building with paintings by Cho-Densu and Kan-Densu on the ceiling, Sculpture of Buddha on the front and 16 Buddhist statues believed to belong to the famous sculptor Teicho dating from the Heian Period on the upper floor. Not only the oldest, Sanmon is also seen as the greatest and most imposing temple gate os Zen Buddhism.
The mediation hall Zendo, lavatory room Tosu and bathing room Yokushitsu are some of Tofukuji temple buildings which has survived since Muromachi period while two main buildings of main hall Hondo and priest quarter Hojo are products of reconstructiions. Hondo houses some unique paintings of Sesshu and Cho Densu, also including a huge scroll of Buddha's Entry into Nirvana and Hojo keeps a painting of a dragon drawn by Insho Domoto on ceiling. This building is surrounded by beautiful pieces of garden called the southern, northern, western and eastern gardens. All of them are laid out by a famous garden builder calle Mirei Shigemori who is known as the author of other remarkable projects of Sumiyoshi Shrine, Kishiwada-jo and Zuiho-in.
From 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Last entry at 3:30 pm
From JR Kyoto Station take JR Nara Line to Tofukuji Station then take a 10 minute walk