A representative Zen temple in Japan with unique Zen gardens, is particularly famous for its spectacular autumn colors.
Tofuku-ji is a large Zen temple, built in the middle of the 13th century at the order of the powerful Fujiwara family. Its name is a combination of two great temples in Nara that were also associated with the Fujiwara, Todai-ji Temple and Kofuku-ji Temple. Tofuku-ji has been one of the principal Zen temples in Kyoto, and a head temple of one of the schools of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.
Tofuku-ji covers a wide area and contains beautiful gardens. Some of the current buildings date from the 15th century. The 22-meter tall “Sanmon” gate which stands at the entrance to the precincts, the oldest Zen gate in Japan, is designated as a National Treasure.
In the precinct, there are the Doju-in, which enshrines the seated image of the Fudo Myo-o (the Buddha who protects the laws of Buddhism), and Reiun-in, with its beautiful Karesansui-style (stone and sand) garden. Next to this is the Hosho-ji, which enshrines a Senju Kannon-zo (a thousand-handed statue of the goddess of mercy) designated as a National Treasure.
The garden on the north side, with moss and stones is particularly popular. The four gardens, surrounding the Hojo (the head priest’s former living quarters) on all sides, is the Hasso Garden. Each garden has a different feature, dry stones, large rocks, moss, trees and checkered patterns. Those gardens are merged zen concepts with modern art. Visitors can walk barefoot on the wooden balcony to enjoy four different and distinct sights.
In autumn, people come from all over Japan to see Tofukuji’s spectacular autumn colors. The most popular view is of the Tsutenkyo Bridge, which spans a valley of maple trees.
Access : 10-minute walk from Tofukuji station on the Keihan line or JR Tofukuji station on the JR Nara Line
9:00 to 16:30 (April to October)
8:30 to 16:30 (November to early December)
9:00 to 16:00 (early December to March)
Admission : Main grounds: free. Wooden bridge and Kaisdano Hall 400 yen. Honbu gardens 400 yen.