Taizoin Temple is home to some of Kyoto, Japan’s best gardens, and is the oldest and most famous subtemple of the even more famous Myoshinji. In this post, we’ll take a stroll through this stunning garden, past the iconic weeping cherry tree, karesansui, and Yoko-en Pond, sharing photos of all these beautiful features of Taizoin during sakura season.
It’s perhaps premature to dedicate a post to Taizoin Temple given that we’ve yet to cover Myoshinji, which is one of Kyoto’s more prominent temples. The sprawling complex in Northwestern Kyoto is home to approximately 50 subtemples in addition to its main buildings, and is the head temple of the Myoshinji school with over 3,000 affiliated temples, making it the largest of all Zen temples.
However, for all of Myoshinji’s prominence and stature, it still doesn’t measure up to Taizoin Temple alone. That might sound counterintuitive since Taizoin is but one part of the larger whole, but in this case, that whole is diluted by virtue of a number of humdrum main temple buildings, ordinary subtemples, and areas that are flat out closed to the general public.
Suffice to say, if you’re visiting Myoshinji Temple, there’s a very strong chance that you’re going for Taizoin. Or, at least, you should be. Between its beautiful gardens and stunning works of Japanese art (including Catching a Catfish with a Gourd, a National Treasure of Japan), Taizoin is truly the must-do at Myoshinji Temple.
Taizoin Temple was founded in 1404 by Muinsoin, a well-respected Zen master, who served the third head priest of Myoshinji Temple. Taizo-in Temple was built by Hatano Izumo Shigemichi, who was deeply devoted to Muinsoin Zenji. Around this time, Myonshin-ji was renamed as ‘Ryuunji’ due to the suppressive rule of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and Muinsoin Zenji was forced to leave. As with many temples in Kyoto, Taizoin was burned down during the Onin War, and was rebuilt thereafter by Kinen Zenji.
Taizoin is home to many distinct features: its dry landscape garden designed by Kano Motonobu, Hyonen-zu “Catching a catfish with a Gourd” by Joetsu, Yoko-en Garden, and a wash basin in which drops of water echo clearly in a hidden underground chamber.
In the case of Taizoin Temple, photos speak most loudly, so here’s a look around this gorgeous temple:
Taizoin Temple is pretty easily accessible from Kyoto Station. Take the San-In Line to Hanazono Station, and then it’s about a 5-7 minute walk from there. There’s not much else to do in this area, but it’s a convenient stop on the way to or from the Arashiyama and Sagano areas.
This temple is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., with admission costing 500 yen for adults and 300 yen for children. Special openings cost 1,000 yen, and matcha is an additional 500 yen. All other temple offerings (see below) also require an additional fee.
Taizoin is also a temple for experiencing all aspects of Zen. Zazen, mediation in silence and stillness, is one such offering. The arts of sadoh (tea ceremony), kadoh (flower arranging), shojin ryori (vegetarian temple cuisine), calligraphy, and temple-stays are also available to visitors of Taizoin Temple who want an enriching experience of the true spirit and essence of Zen. You can read about pricing and reservations for these experiences on this page of Taizoin Temple’s official website.
Overall, Taizoin Temple is one of our favorite gardens in Kyoto, and also one of the most stunning spots in the city during sakura season. Its beauty goes beyond the weeping cherry tree, and the engaging design of the temple’s gardens and fascinating art makes it a recommended spot to visit. While we didn’t have a chance to reserve any of the Zen experiences, those look like very intriguing options for anyone who wants an enriching, hands-on experience during their time in Kyoto.
If you’re planning a trip to Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend that you start by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit!
Have you visited Taizoin Temple? What did you think of the experience? Are you as enamored with this temple’s gardens as we are? Would you recommend it to a first-timer visiting Japan? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Does visiting this spot in Kyoto interest you? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!