Japan Kyoto Fushimi

Tofukuji Temple

Foundational site of Zen, flourishing in autumn colors, established in 1236

Photo of Tofukuji Temple, Japan (東福寺 by Richard, enjoy my life!)

Tofukuji Temple is a key site in Kyoto’s cultural landscape, celebrated for its exquisite gardens and traditional architecture. Founded in 1236, the temple is an important example of Zen Buddhism’s influence in Japan. Serving as the head temple of the Tofukuji school of the Rinzai sect, it continues to be a center for Zen practice.

About Tofukuji Temple

Established by Kujō Michiie, an influential statesman of the Kamakura period, with the founding priest being the monk Enni, Tofukuji Temple has been integral to Japan’s religious evolution. It is included in the Kyoto Gozan, the “five great Zen temples of Kyoto.” Rebuilt in the 15th century after fire damage, the temple remains a prominent cultural and spiritual site.

The temple’s buildings illustrate Japan’s feudal history. The Tofukuji Sanmon Gate, reconstructed in 1425, is the country’s oldest surviving Zen main gate and is designated a National Treasure. The complex includes the Hondo, structures from the Muromachi Period, and 24 sub-temples, each reflecting Zen architectural styles of their time.

The gardens showcase traditional Japanese landscaping. The Hojo Garden, adjacent to the former abbot’s living quarters, features rock gardens that reflect Zen teachings. The checkerboard garden, designed by Mirei Shigemori, is another notable space, offering a tranquil environment.

Tofukuji is renowned for its autumn scenery, with Japanese maples drawing crowds during the season. The Tsutenkyo Bridge allows an impressive view of the vivid maple canopy. This seasonal display has established Tofukuji as a prime location for observing Japan’s natural beauty.

The temple’s art includes the nehan-zu, a large painting celebrating Buddha’s passing, and a portrait of the monk Wuzhun Shifan, adding cultural richness. Visitors can engage with Zen traditions and the temple’s preserved historical and artistic elements.

Visitors should not miss the Hojo Garden, with its unique character on each side. The temple’s proximity to Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine also makes it part of a popular cultural route through Southeast Kyoto.

Tofukuji Temple, from its 13th-century beginnings to today, remains a significant cultural and historical landmark in Kyoto. It encapsulates the essence of Japanese Zen Buddhism and the timeless appeal of Japanese garden design, making it an indispensable site for those interested in Japan’s spiritual and aesthetic traditions.

Getting There the easiest way to reach Tofukuji Temple

KH 35

 Keihan Main Line

 5-10 minute walk (800m)
D 02

 JR Nara Line + 1 more

 5-10 minute walk (800m)

Around Tofukuji Temple

Tofukuji Temple

Buddhist Temple in Kyoto


東福寺, 京都

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Updated 13 Mar 2024 • Report an error

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