One among tens ancient temples around Kyoto, Daikakuji is the leading temple of Daikakuji Shingon Buddhism. Originally, there used to be an other temple called Sagain built as the 2nd imperial palace of the great Emperor Saga about 1200 years ago. When Kobo-Daishi Kukai constructed the temple as a branch of Shingon Buddhism sect, he named it Kyu Saga Gosho Daikaku-ji Monzeki, meaning the Old Saga Imperial Palace Daikaku-ji Temple. Taking the tradition that members of imperial family assumed the responsibility of chief priest, Daikakuji is also considered as a Monzeki temple. Later, The grandson of Saga, prince Tsunesada, built Daikakuji temple at the former site of Sagain temple.
The main gate of Daikakuji, Chokushi-mon used to be the gate for the imperial messenger, only opened when the Emperor came. All the halls at Daikakuji are linked with the others by raised wooden walkways so-called nightingale floors. Like Ninomaru Palace in Nijo Castle, the floor will sing a joyful song following your every single step like the sweet voice of nightingale. Shinden in style of shinden-zukuri with Iriomoya roof is an important cultural property, moved from the imperial palace of Tofukumonin to be the residence for the consort of the Emperor. From Shinden, visitors can look straight at the quiet garden with white sands and magnificent architecture of Tachibana of Ukon and Ume of Sakon. Shoshinden of 12 rooms in Momoyama period shoin architecture houses paintings from the Kano school of artists from the 15th to 18th centuries including a hawk drawn in India ink along with many others on fusuma sliding doors. This used to be the place for holding peace conference between the courts.
A Heart Sutra written by the Emperor Saga on the suggestion of Kobo Daishi to drive a disease away from Kyoto in the Heian Period can be found in Shingyoden. Statues of Kobo-Daishi, Emperor Saga, Cloistered Emperor Go-Uda, and the Prince Gojaku are enshrined at Miedo Hall. The main building Godaido protects the statues of the Five Wisdom Kings, served as the sutra-transcription on the 1st, 11th, and 21st of every month. The treasure house Reihokan will be open to the public in spring and autumn.
Inside the precinct of Dakakuji, you can find out the oldest artificial pond for Japanese style garden imitated from Lake Dotei in China constructed by Emperor Saga called Osawa. People consider Osawa as one among the major moon viewing ponds around Kyoto, not about the real moon above the lake but its dazzling reflection on the water surface. It usually happens here from Heian period that people gather in boating, moon viewing and fishing parties. Seasons give Daikakuji various beauties, spring is time of cherry blossom while summer brings more than 3000 lotus blossoms over the temple lake. Autumn here is famous for not only red leaves but also the moon viewing held in middle of season.