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Daitoku-ji is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto; the head temple of its own branch of Rinzai Zen, Daitoku-ji is among the most famous and important of Kyoto's Zen temples. The Daitoku-ji compound consists of two main temples and 21 tatchû (sub-temples).

Daitoku-ji was founded in 1315 by Daitô Kokushi, who received strong support from Emperors Hanazono and Go-Daigo. In the Muromachi period, the temple refused to protect the shogunate, and became more independent.

Most of the temple's buildings were destroyed in the Ônin War, but were rebuilt under the guidance of Ikkyû Sôjun, with the support of the wealthy merchants of Sakai. Toyotomi Hideyoshi and other daimyo built additional structures; most of the buildings standing today date back to the early 17th century.

The compound represents a model Zen garan (temple complex); many of the buildings are Important Cultural Properties, and one, the hôjô (abbot's quarters) of Daisen-in, is a National Treasure. The temple's karamon (gate), also a National Treasure, is said to have come from the Jurakudai (Hideyoshi's grand palace). The temple also houses numerous written or painted National Treasures, including fusuma paintings by Kanô Eitoku and Kanô Tan'yû, and a Kannon, crane, and monkeys triptych by Chinese artist Mu Qi.

Daitoku-ji is also closely associated with tea ceremony on account of its popularity with figures such as Sen no Rikyû and Murata Jukô.

Korean emissaries stayed at Daitoku-ji four times in the early modern period. The first was in 1590. At that time, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was planning his invasions, and demanded tribute from the Korean court. Instead, Tsushima suggested that Korea send a mission under the guise of a congratulatory mission for Hideyoshi's having united Japan. The Koreans intended to use the mission to also investigate further Hideyoshi's intentions. That year, on the 21st day of the 7th month, roughly 300 people came and stayed at Daitoku-ji, where they met with scholar Fujiwara Seika, among others.[1] This embassy did not forestall the invasions.

In 1607, the first mission to come to Japan since the end of the invasions, numbering around 500 people, stayed at Daitoku-ji along with representatives from Tsushima. This came after several exchanges of letters between Tokugawa Ieyasu and the Korean Court, and came to Japan to negotiate for the return of captives taken during the war. They were warmly welcomed by the Kyoto shoshidai, who arranged for monkey trainers to put on shows, and for games of kemari. Missions also stayed at Daitoku-ji in 1617 and 1624, visiting captives and arranging for their return. From 1636 onwards, Korean embassies were provided lodgings at Honkoku-ji instead, as part of efforts by the Tokugawa shogunate to distance the embassies from interactions with the imperial court.[2]

HIH Princess Akiko of Mikasa has resided at Daitoku-ji at times; she is the first member of the Imperial family to reside in Kyoto since Emperor Meiji and his family left for Tokyo.


Daitoku-ji's sub-temples include:


  • Plaques on-site.
  1. Doyoung Park, "A New Perspective on hte Korean Embassy (Chôsen Tsûshinshi): The View from the Intellectuals in Tokugawa Japan," Studies in Asia Series IV, 3:1 (2013), 13.
  2. Kido Hironari 木戸博成, "Go-Mizunoo jôkô, Meishô tennô no mae de sôgaku shita Ryûkyû jin" 後水尾上皇・明正天皇の前で奏楽した琉球人, Okinawa bunka kenkyû 44 (2017), 174.