Kokedera Temple (Saiho-ji Temple,location,history)

Kokedera Temple, Saiho-ji Temple

The information about Kokedera Temple is presented here. It is said that Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the 3rd Muromachi shogun, and Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the 8th Muromachi shogun, visited Kokedera Temple during the Muromachi period (1336-1573), and that the garden was the prototype for Kitayama-dono, the predecessor of Kinkaku-ji Temple built by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and Higashiyama-dono, the predecessor of Ginkaku-ji Temple built by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

【Kokedera Temple Location Map & Directions】

Address: 56 Matsuo Kamigaya-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Access (How to get there): Kokedera Suzumusidera bus stop (about 3 minutes on foot), Hankyu Matsuo-Taisha Station (about 20 minutes on foot)

【Opening Hours & Closed (confirmation required)】

Opening Hours: 8:30-17:00 (Prior application is required to view the temple.)
Closed: open year round

【Entrance Fees & Tickets (confirmation required)】

Individual: 3,000 yen

【Kokedera Temple History】

The site of Kokedera Temple (苔寺, Saiho-ji Temple, 西芳寺) was built was the villa built by Prince Shotoku-taishi, the prince of the 31st Emperor Youmei, in the Asuka period (592-710). The villa is said to have housed the statue of Amida Nyorai, created by Prince Shotoku-taishi. Kokedera Temple was founded by the monk Gyoki Bosatsu under the decree of the 45th Emperor Shomu during the Tenpyo period (729-749) and named Nishikatadera Temple. Gyoki Bosatsu transformed the villa into a temple of the Hosso sect, which is counted among the Kinai shijukuin (49th temples in Kinai) and housed the statues of Amida Sanzon (Amida Nyorai, Kannon Bosatsu, and Seishi Bosatsu) created by Gyoki Bosatsu.
It is said that in 806, Shinnyo Hoshinnou, the 3rd prince of the 51st Emperor Heijo, built a hermitage and practiced Buddhism at Kokedera Temple. It is said that Kobo-daishi Kukai, the founder of the Shingon sect, temporarily resided at Kokedera Temple in the early Heian period (794-1185) and held hojo-e at Ogonchi Pond. In the early Kamakura period (1185-1333), Nakahara Morokazu, revived Kokedera Temple and divided it into Nishikatadera Temple and Edodera Temple. It is said that Honen, the founder of the Jodo sect, who was invited to the temple, converted it to the Jodo sect. In the early Kamakura period (1185-1333), Shinran, the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect, built Gutodo and stayed there. In the early Kamakura period, Hojo Tokiyori, the 5th shiken of the Kamakura shogunate, built Odo.
It is said that Kokedera Temple fell into disrepair during the Kenmu period (1334-1338). In 1339, Muso-kokushi (Muso Soseki), Zen monks of the Rinzai sect, were invited by Fujiwara no Chikahide, chief vassal of the Muromachi shogunate and priest of Matsuo Taisha Shrine, to revive and unite Nishikatadera Temple and Edodera Temple into a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect. Muso-kokushi (Muso Soseki) is also said to have created a garden. Muso-kokushi (Muso Soseki) changed the name of the temple from Nishikatadera Temple (西方寺) to Saiho-ji Temple (西芳寺) because the main revered statue is Amida Nyorai, the head of the Western Pure Land. “Saiho” comes from Daruma-daishi, the founder of the Zen sect, who was called “Soshi Sairai (祖師西来)” and “Goyo Renpo (五葉聯芳)”. In 1342, the 1st Northern Court Emperor Kogon, accompanied by Ashikaga Takauji, the 1st Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, visited Kokedera Temple. Emperor Kogon visited again in 1347. It is said that Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the 3rd Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, who built Kitayama-dono, the predecessor of Kinkaku-ji Temple, visited Kokedera Temple in 1382 and often afterward, using it as a reference for the construction of Kitayama-dono. It is said that the 102nd emperor, Go-Hanazono, visited Kokedera Temple in 1462.
During the Onin War (1467-1477) in the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the to-gun (eastern army) led by Hosokawa Katsumoto set up camp at Kokedera Temple, and Kokedera Temple was destroyed by military fire when the sei-gun (western army) led by Yamana Sozen attacked. Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the 8th shogun of the Muromachi shogunate, who had built Higashiyama-dono, the predecessor of Ginkaku-ji Temple, in the mid-Muromachi period (1336-1573), rebuilt Shitoan. It is said that Ashikaga Yoshimasa often visited Koke-ji Temple and used it as a reference for the construction of Higashiyama-dono. In 1485, Rennyo, the 8th head of Hongan-ji Temple (Nishi Hongan-ji Temple), revived Kokedera Temple. In 1568, it was destroyed by military fire from the Yanagimoto clan of Tanba Province. After that, Oda Nobunaga ordered Sakugen Shuryo of Tenryu-ji Temple to rebuild Kokedera Temple. During the Kanei period (1624-1643), Kokedera Temple was destroyed by a flood. Kokedera Temple was also devastated by floods during the Genroku period (1688-1704). In 1862, the court noblewoman Iwakura Tomomi temporarily lived in seclusion at Shonan-tei. After the Meiji Restoration, due to the separation of Shinto and Buddhism and the Haibutsukishaku, the area of Kokedera Temple was reduced and fell into disrepair. In 1878, Kokedera Temple was revived.
*reference・・・Kokedera Temple website

【Kokedera Temple Highlights (May be undisclosed)】

★Garden (庭園, Special Place of Scenic Beauty and Historic Site) was created in the Nanbokucho period (1337-1392) by Muso-kokushi (Muso Soseki), who were the founders of Tenryu-ji Temple. It is said that Garden was later transformed into a moss garden after the Edo period (1603-1867). It is said that Garden was devastated by floods and other disasters, and because the land was wet with a high water table, the moss was left to grow and covered with moss.
★Shonan-tei (湘南亭, Important Cultural Property) is said to have been rebuilt in the Aduchi Momoyama period (1573-1603) by Sen no Shoan, the 2nd son of Sen no Rikyu, after his father’s suicide. Shonan-tei is said to have been the hiding place of the court noble Iwakura Tomomi in 1862.
★Kaizando (開山堂) was rebuilt in 1878. Kaizando houses the tablets of Gyoki Bosatsu and Shinnyo Hoshinnou, as well as wooden statues of Muso-kokushi (Muso Soseki) and Fujiwara no Chikahide and his wife.
★Hondo (Main Hall, 本堂) was rebuilt in 1969, designed and directed by Murata Jiro, professor emeritus of Kyoto University. Hondo houses the statue of Amida Nyorai. Hondo is decorated with sliding door paintings by the Japanese-style painter Domoto Insho.
苔寺見どころ (Kokedera Temple Highlights)

【Telephone (Please refrain from making phone calls.)】

Tel: +81-75-391-3631

【Recommended Walking Route】

The recommended walking route from Koke-dera Temple is to Suzumo-dera Temple (Kegon-ji Temple), which is located to the east. At Suzumo-dera, you can enjoy the sound of bells throughout the year. From Suzumo-dera, it is also recommended to head north to Matsuo-taisha Shrine. A walk along the Katsura-gawa River is also recommended.

【Remarks(access, parking, disclaimer, etc)】
If you plan to visit Kokedera Temple, be sure to check the latest information.


  1. 錦市場(Nishiki Market)
  2. 竹林の道(Bamboo Forest Path)
  3. 嵐山