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Kodaiji Temple is a prominent Kyoto temple known for its annual evening autumn illumination event. Visitors can enjoy strolling through gardens and admiring gorgeous fall scenes at night. Held until mid-December, this is a must-experience way of enjoying Japanese nature and culture.
Located in the Higashiyama Ward near Kiyomizudera Temple, Kodaiji Temple is one of the most prominent temples in Kyoto. Every October through December, visitors can see its gorgeous fall foliage illuminated in the evening. The temple hosts evening light up events year-round, but fall provides a special chance to view a rainbow of colors on the trees.
Kodaiji Temple is a Buddhist temple founded in 1606, honoring fuedal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his wife, Nene. In addition to this rich history, there are multiple culturally important structures on the grounds to see, including a garden nationally recognized for its beauty.
The theme of the illuminations at Kodaiji Temple change each year, so your visit is sure to offer a unique experience.
The illumination is held daily from 17:00 until 22:00 (final entry at 21:30). Although the exact dates depend on the peak period for viewing autumn leaves, the even generally runs from late October until early December.
Admission is 600 yen, paid at the front entrance (pictured above). Be sure to take a map (available in Japanese, English, and more) and follow the signs along the route. We recommend wearing a pair of comfortable walking shoes, as there are some hills and stairs to climb around the temple precinct.
The paths are surrounded by greenery speckled with red, yellow, orange, and gold. It'll feel like you've entered a fantasy world from the moment you step inside the temple grounds!
The path runs beside the garden, which is nationally recognized as a historical place of scenic beauty. The placement of the stones in the garden is representative of a Momoyama era-garden (around 1583 to 1600).
Next guests come to the Hojyo, or main hall, from which they can see a special rendition of the rock garden. The colorful rock garden is illuminated at different intervals, so be sure to stay to see it lit-up completely.
Continue through the main hall to see artwork from Italian musician and artist, Luca Galileo. Galileo's exhibited works are inspired by Japanese nature, including textures of bamboo, pampas grass, and roots. Firenze is the Italian sister-city of Kyoto; this display commemorates more than 25 years of international cooperation and friendship.
After enjoying the art at the exhibit hall, proceed down the path to the Kaisan-do, where the founder of Kodaiji is enshrined. This hall is one of several original structures remaining at the temple, and is designated an important cultural property.
To the right of the hall is a gorgeous view of fall colors and a pond. The vibrant trees reflect perfectly in the still water, looking just like scene from a painting.
Another spectacular view is the enclosed pathway, Garyo-ro. The sight of colorful trees surrounding the corridor is sure to instill a calming feeling.
Kodaiji Temple is also known for its lush bamboo forest that guests can wander through. The mystical, illuminated bamboo is unlike anything you've ever experienced. During the autumn light-up, you can see the colors from the trees peeking through the towering bamboo trunks.
Seasonal flowers at Kodaiji
Other locations at Kodaiji include Otama-ya, a mausoleum, and the tearooms, Kasa-tei and Shigurei-tei, which have also survived fires and natural disasters since they were first constructed and are recognized as important cultural properties. You can view the exterior of these historical structures and take photos.
For those craving some matcha and sweets, stop by the tearoom selling a matcha and wagashi set for 500 yen. You can view the serene, picturesque grounds of the temple while sipping on tea!
Kodaiji is full of sights and experiences, so be sure to take your time walking through the temple grounds.
The sloped pathway leading to Kodaiji Temple
Kodaiji Temple is in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto, located close to Gion and Kiyomizudera Temple. Its close proximity to other major spots make it easy to visit.
To get to Kodaiji from Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus #100 heading towards Kiyomizudera Temple and get off at Kiyomizu Michi, or take the special #206 Kyoto City Bus to Higashiyama Yasui. From the bus stop, walk east about 5 minutes to the entrance of Kodaiji Temple (pictured above). It takes around twenty minutes in total to get there.
Alternatively, you can walk around 10-15 minutes from the Gion area to get to Kodaiji Temple.
One of the best times to visit Japan is in fall, when the entire country is painted in crimson and gold. Kyoto's Kodaiji is a lovely temple to explore for a serene evening spent appreciating the beauty of nature.
A visit during the daytime will provide another view of the gorgeous leaves. If possible, arrive at the temple before sunset to enjoy both. Entokuin Temple (join-ticket available for 900 yen), Kiyomizudera Temple, and Gion are nearby, as well as museums, shops, restaurants, so you can enjoy an afternoon and evening of fun in the area.
In cooperation with Kodaiji Temple