Tofuku-ji Temple (東福寺)

Tofuku-ji Temple, situated in Hommachi, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, is the head temple of the Rinzai sect Tofuku-ji School of Zen Buddhism. Its honorific mountain prefix is Enichisan. Its principal image is the Buddha Shakamuni, its kaiki (patron of a temple in its founding) was Michiie KUJO and the role of kaisan (first chief priest) was fulfilled by Shoichi-kokushi Enni. The temple had remained prestigious from middle ages right through to recent times as the fourth Zen temple of the Kyoto-Gozan. Despite the fact that its former scale had been diminished during the anti-Buddhist movement of the Meiji period, even now it is an extremely large temple with 25 tatchu (sub-temples).

The temple precinct features a large number of maple trees including three-pointed leaf maples known as 'Tsuten Momiji' which were brought to Japan from Sung Dynasty China. Originally, sakura cherry trees were planted but these were cut down and replaced by maple trees due to fears that the temple grounds would become merely a pleasure spot.

During the Russo-Japanese War of the Meiji Period, the temple precinct was confiscated and used as a detention camp for Russian prisoners of war.

Tofuku-ji Temple is located on the southeast edge of Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City and borders Fushimi Ward. A giant monastery belonging to the Hossho-ji Temple once stood on the site and was built as a Fujiwara clan temple in the year 924 by FUJIWARA no Tadahira (Hossho-ji Temple continues to exist as a small temple near the West Japan Railway Company (JR West) Keihan Electric Railway Tofukuji Station).
In 1236, Michiie KUJO (father of regent and Kamakura Shogun FUJIWARA no Yoritsune) vowed to build a large temple housing an approximately 15 meter tall statue of the Buddha Shakamuni on the site and the first character of the names of each of Nara's great temples, Todai-ji Temple and Kofuku-ji Temple, were combined to create the name 'Tofuku-ji Temple.'
Construction work on the Butsuden (Buddha hall) housing the 15 meter tall statue of the Buddha Shakamuni began in 1239 and was completed in 1255. The statue itself was destroyed by fire in 1319 and rebuilt during the latter half of the 14th century before once again being destroyed by fire in 1881. Tofuku-ji Temple is in possession of a giant Buddha's hand (the remaining 2 meters) and this is assumed to be the left hand that was saved from the Meiji period fire that destroyed the former statue of the principal image. This is a remnant of the principal image statue rebuilt in the 14th century, not that of the temples founding, but it is clear that the given height of 15 meters is no exaggeration.

Michiie KUJO served as kaisan (first chief priest) and received Zen monk Enni (1202-1280) on his return to Japan from studying in Song Dynasty China. Enni was from Suruga Province (present day Shizuoka Prefecture) and departed for China in 1235 to study under eminent master Wuzhun Shifan (1178-1249) of the Xingshen Wanshou Zen temple on Mt. Jingshan. In 1241, he received inka (certification as a Zen Master) and returned to Japan. Enni first resided at Joten-ji Temple in Hakata, Kyushu but this temple was persecuted by Tendai sect followers and set on fire, which led him to travel to Kyoto with the support of Michiie KUJO, and he was received as kaisan of Tofuku-ji Temple.

Construction work on Tofuku-ji Temple spanned over 30 years and its Hatto (lecture hall of an exoteric Buddhist temple) was completed in 1273. Starting with the blaze of 1319, the structure was repeatedly destroyed by fire but each time was rebuilt with the support of the Kujo family, the Ashikaga family and the Tokugawa family among others. More recently, the great fire of 1881 destroyed structures which included the Butsuden, Hatto, Hojo (head priest's living quarters) and Kuri (priest's living quarters or kitchen). The current Hondo (main hall), Hojo, Kuri etc. were rebuilt after the Meiji period but other mediaeval structures including the Sammon Gate, Tosu (lavatory), Yokushitsu (bathing room) and Zendo (meditation hall) escaped the fire to remain to this day and become designated National Treasures.

Tofuku-ji Temple has produced a succession of many eminent monks, with the most noteworthy among these being "Genko-Shakusho" author Kokan Shiren and the artist Kitsuzan Mincho who was active during Muromachi Period and greatly influenced later Buddhist painting and India-ink painting.

The main monastery comprises of, among other structures, the Sammon Gate, Butsudo, Hojo, and Kuri, and is accompanied by a total of 25 sub-temples that are situated to its north, south and west. To the north of the main monastery lies a valley named Sengyokukan, which is spanned by, from west to east, the three bridges Gaun-kyo Bridge, Tsuten-kyo Bridge and Engetsu-kyo Bridge (Important Cultural Property). Tsuten-kyo Bridge is a continuation of the roofed hallway that leads away from the Hondo and this area is particularly well-known for its Japanese maple trees. On the other side of the bridge (northern side) sits Joraku-an that enshrines the temple's kaisan (first chief priest) Enni.

Sammon Gate (National Treasure)

- A two-storey gate with five bays and three entrances. Five bays and three entrances means that, of the five front bays, the middle three are entrances and, although it is two-storied gate, it is different from a romon gate in that it has an extension eave at the border between the lower and upper storeys. It was rebuilt at the beginning of the 15th century and is the oldest surviving Zen Buddhist temple Sammon Gate in Japan. The upper storey is home to sculptures of the Buddha Shakamuni and his juroku rakan (the major sixteen enlightened disciples (Arhats)).

Hondo (Butsuden and Hatto)

Features a hip-and-gable pent roof. After the Butsuden and Hatto were destroyed by fire in 1881, reconstruction work began in 1917 and was completed in 1934. It is a large scale hall measuring 25.5 meters in height with a frontage of 41.4 meters and it is said to be the largest wooden structure of the Showa era. The image of a dragon on the roof was painted by Insho DOMOTO. The statue of the main deity of veneration, the Buddha Shakamuni (standing and flanked by Ananda and Mahakasyapa), is a Kamakura period original as it was relocated here from Manju-ji Temple after the fire of 1881.

Hojo (head priest's living quarters)

Reconstructed in 1890. The gardens arranged to the east, west and south of the building were designed by modern landscape architect Mirei SHIGEMORI. The stone arrangement in the western garden represents a dragon emerging from the ocean and ascending into black clouds. The checkered geometric arrangement of stones and moss of the northern garden is particularly well-known. The neighboring Kuri was rebuilt in 1910.


Situated to the north of the main monastery. The plot is centered around the Kaisando, in which a statue of kaisan (founding priest) Enni is enshrined, and the Shodo (meditation hall). After being destroyed by fired in 1819, reconstruction was undertaken and completed before 1826. A two-storey building named 'Dennekaku' is at the center of the Shodo. It is considered to be one of the five great towers of Kyoto along with Kinkaku (Rokuon-ji Temple), Ginkaku (Jisho-ji Temple), Hiunkaku (West-Hongan-ji Temple), and Donkokaku (Hoshun-in, a sub-temple of Daitoku-ji Temple).

Zendo (meditation hall)

The oldest and largest surviving medieval zendo is this single storey pent gable roof building reconstructed in 1347 that occupies a magnificent position and is reminiscent of its ancient origins.

Tosu (lavatory)

This sole surviving example of a Muromachi period Zen style tosu (lavatory) is the oldest and largest in Japan, and has also come to be known as the 'hundred toilet' due to the fact that it was used many student monks simultaneously. It is arranged along a central aisle with cylindrical basins installed on the right and left sides.

Yokushitsu (bathing room)

This single story building with a formal tiled hip-and-gable roof at the front and gable roof at the back is known as the remains of Kyoto's oldest bath house, which was built in 1459. Inside, two steam baths stand on the main wooden floor and in the rear are kettles and furnace openings.

Gekka-mon Gate

This cypress bark gable-roofed four-legged gate retains Kamakura period detailing such as its frog-leg struts and is said to be the Gekka-mon Gate of Kyoto Imperial Palace that was granted to Sanetsune ICHIJO by Emperor Kameyama when he built Joraku-an in 1268.

Rokuhara-mon Gate

This early Kamakura period gate located at the southernmost point of the southern main monastery was given this name as it was relocated from its original site at the Hojo clan Rokuhara government office.

Engetsu-kyo Bridge

This single storey bridge corridor topped by a gable roof with base tiles is one of the three bridges that spans the valley as it leads to Tatchu (sub-temple), Ryogin-an Temple and Sokushu-in Temple from the head temple and, it and its downstream counterparts Tsuten-kyo Bridge and Gaun-kyo Bridge, are known as the Three Bridges of Tofuku-ji Temple.

Tsuten-kyo Bridge

This bridge corridor that spans Sengyokukan valley and leads from the Butsuden to the Kaisando (Joraku-an), was built in 1380 by Shunoku Myoha in order to save monks from the hardship of crossing the valley. In 1959, it was destroyed by a typhoon but was rebuilt 2 years later with the piers being constructed from reinforced concrete.

Komyo Hoden

This cultural property storage facility located to the east of the Hondo was completed in 1981. It houses but does not display the cultural properties of Tofuku-ji Temple and its sub-temples.

Major Sub-Temples

Ryogin-an Temple

This sub-temple is located behind the Kuri of the main hall on the flatland at the base of the mountain where Engetsu-kyo Bridge is crossed and was built just before the death of the third head priest of Tofuku-ji Temple and Nanzen-ji Temple kaisan (founding priest) Mukan Fumon in order to serve as his burial place.
(Open to the public in November of each year.)

Funda-in Temple

Founded between 1321 and 1324 by Uchitsune ICHIJO, chief advisor to the emperor, in memory of his father and is also known as Sesshu-ji Temple after its gardens that are said to have been created by the renowned India-ink painter Sesshu.
(Open to the public.)

Reiun-in Temple

This sub-temple was founded by Giyo Hoshu in 1390 and gained the reverence of the Higo Hosokawa clan from whom it is believed to have been given the gift of an Iai-seki stone representing Mt. Shumisen and a stone boat between 1624-1644.
(Open to the public.)

Doju-in Temple

Founded during the Bunan era (1444-1448) in the mid Muromachi period in Tofuku-ji Temple's 129th year; the seated statue of the main deity of veneration, Fudo Myoo (Important Cultural Property), thought to have been created by Jocho's father Kosho is said to have been the central deity of the Godaido (hall dedicated to the five guardian kings) that was established by FUJIWARA no Michinaga in old Hossho-ji Temple in 1006.
(Open to the public.)

Komyo-in Temple

Founded by Kinzan Myosho in 1391 with a garden named 'Hashin-no-niwa' created by Mirei SHIGEMORI.
(Open to the public.)

Tentoku-in Temple

Founded by Zen master Mumu Issei during the Shohei era (1346-1370) in Tofuku-ji Temple's 30th year; the dry landscape garden completely covered in hair moss is beautifully complemented by the blue and white of the Chinese bellflowers.
(Open to the public from mid-June to early July and from November 1 to 30.)

Taiko-an Temple

This sub-temple, founded in 1346 by the 43rd chief priest of Tofuku-ji Temple Shokai Reiken, became temporarily ruined during the Onin war but was restored by Ankokuji Ekei in 1599.
(Visitors are required to book in advance.)

Manju-ji Temple

Believed to have once stood in Takakura, Manjuji-dori, Shimogyo Ward and was highly renowned as the fifth of the Kyoto-Gozan. It was relocated to its current location during the Tensho era (1573-1592).

Cultural Properties

National Treasures

Sammon Gate

Color on silk portrait of Wuzhun Shifan inscribed 1238 - A Southern Song period work dating from 1238. The master of the temple's kaisan Enni (founding priest), Wuzhun Shifan, was an eminent master of Song Dynasty China. In Zen Buddhism, a disciple's training is concluded by the presentation of his master's portrait and this specimen was presented by Enni.

Wuzhun Shifan bokuseki on silk (Enni's certification as a Zen Master) - Written in 1237 during the Southern Song period. The word 'bokuseki' means the writing of a Zen high monk. This item was received by Enni's master as proof of his training.

19 Zen temple calligraphic frames and plates

103 volumes of Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era

12 volumes of the Song Dynasty book 'Yichu Liutie'

The Hojo of sub-temple Ryogin-an Temple is also a National Treasure.

Important Cultural Properties

Many of the paintings, sculptures, crafts, documents etc. that have been designated Important Cultural Properties are kept in the Komyo Hoden but are not on public display. Other pieces, including paintings, have been deposited with Tokyo and Kyoto National museums.

Rokuhara-mon Gate
Yokushitsu (bathing room)
Tosu (lavatory)
Zendo (meditation hall)
Engetsu-kyo Bridge
Sansho-ji Aizendo
Gekka-mon Gate
Nio-mon Gate
Bell tower (at Manju-ji Temple)
Thirteen-storied pagoda (stone)
Joraku-an Kaisando, Shodo, Kyakuden (guest hall) (Fumonin), Tassuryo (reception building), Kuri (priest's living quarters or kitchen), Romon gate, Bell tower, Uramon (rear gate).

45 color on silk Gohyakurakan zu (images of the Five hundred arhats) (Attributed to Kitsuzan Mincho)
Color on silk Shaka Sanzon zo (image of Gautama Buddha flanked by two attendants)
Color on silk portrait of Oan Osho
Color on silk portrait of Shoichi-kokushi inscribed by Kempo Shidon
Color on silk portrait of Shoichi-kokushi inscribed with the 3rd year of the Koan era (1280)
Color on paper portrait of Shoichi-kokushi painted by Kitsuzan Mincho
India-ink on paper portrait of Shoichi-kokushi attributed to Kitsuzan Mincho (Iwaue zo)
Color on silk portrait of Michiie FUJIWARA
India-ink on silk portrait of Yuima koji
3 light color on paper portraits of Daruma Gama Tekkai painted by Kitsuzan Mincho
40 color on paper portraits of the 40 ancestors painted by Kitsuzan Mincho
Light color on paper image of Tofuku-ji Temple monastery (Attributed to Sesshu)
74 partition paintings in the Hojo of Fumonin

Mokuzo Sogyo zazo (wooden seated statue attired as a Buddhist monk)
Mokuzo Jizo Bosatsu zo (wooden seated statue of Ksitigarbha)
Mokuzo Nitenno ryuzo (wooden standing statue of two tenno (guardians))

Vermilion lacquered peony arabesque openwork table
Bonsho (temple bell)

Writings and Archives

Writing of Shoichi-kokushi - Will dated the 17th day of the 10th month of the 3rd year of the Koan era (1280)
2 writings of Bukkan zenji, Enni-go
4 writings of Kokan Shiren - Shingaku kaizampon
Letters written by Zen master Fojian of Mt. Jingshan and compiled by Dao Can
30 volumes of Genko-Shakusho
8 volumes of Santendai Godaisanki
5 Bushun Gyojoki written by Tokunyo
2 sect lineage charts (silk)
Large sect lineage chart
To-ji Temple certificate of Tendai lineage
8 Tofuku-ji Temple succession epitaphs created in Song Dynasty China
Fumonin inventory of books written by Daido Ichii
Both volumes of Song Dynasty China book Shanjia Yiyuan written by Keguan
6 volumes of Song Dynasty China book Sifenlu Biqiunichao written by Daoxuan
3 volumes of Song Dynasty China book Siming Shiyi compiled by Zhili, written by Jizhong
5 volumes of Song Dynasty China book Shumon toyoshu Soeishu
4 volumes of Song Dynasty China book Taizong Shilei Yinge Lun written by Shanyue

1 volume of Song Dynasty China book The Doctrine of the Mean in three sections written by Jiu-cheng ZHANG.
4 volumes of Song Dynasty China book the analects of Zen master Fojian
Song Dynasty China book Fozu Zongpai Tu compiled by Ru-da
4 volumes of Song Dynasty China book the analects of Zen master Yuanwu (2 parts) compiled by Shaolong etc.
4 volumes of Song Dynasty China book Lankavatara Sutra (transcribed by Su Shi)
6 volumes of Song Dynasty China book Lengjia Tongyi written by Shanyue
30 volumes of Song Dynasty China book Shou Leng Yan Jing Yi Hai
Documents related to Enni
Michiie KUJO So Shobunjo
Chinese Zen temple diagram on paper (Jiden Daiso shozan zu)
Shoichi-kokushi certification of ordination (2)
Shoichi-kokushi government license allowing him to practice as a Buddhist monk (2)
2 Tofuku-ji Temple amended sutra boards written by Kozan Ikkyo
Tofuku-ji Temple articles (1st day of the 6th month of the 3rd year of the Koan era (1280))
Tofuku-ji Temple archives (5585) including 43 scrolls, 129 plates, 1474 books, 67 folding books, 3770 sheets of paper, 51 shiki, 6 leaves, 2 sheets


Take the Keihan Main Line, alight at 'Tobakaido Station' or 'Tofukuji Station' and walk. Take the JR Nara Line to 'Tofukuji Station' and walk.

Films Shot at Tofuku-ji Temple
Detective Conan: Crossroad in the Ancient Capital'

[Original Japanese]