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in 794 AD, when the capital of japan was moved from nara to kyoto, it was decided that two guardian temples should be built at either side of the rajomon (羅城門) main gate.  this south gate allowed access into the capital of kyoto.  appropriately, these two temples were named east temple (東寺) and west temple (西寺).

though the west temple is no longer standing, to-ji (東寺) has survived through the years thanks to support from various emperors.  the official name of to-ji is kyo-ogokoku-ji (教王護国寺) and is of great value to japanese society for its large collection of esoteric buddhist art.  kukai, who founded shingon buddhism, was honored with the temple and was responsible for adding several buildings to the grounds.  kukai was also responsible for toshodai-ji, another UNESCO world heritage site.  the five-story pagoda on the grounds of the temple is the tallest wooden tower in japan and it was built in honor of kukai after his death.just like nishi hongan-ji, to-ji can be reached by walking from JR kyoto station.  it is about 1.1 km (0.7 miles) from the southern exit of the station. turn right so that you are headed west and walk straight until you walk under the second overpass, about 800 meters (0.5 mile).  then turn left and walk 300 meters ().  the entrance will be on your right.

if you do not want to walk, you can pick up a taxi at this exit.  buses 16, 19, and 71 will take you to to-ji as well.  admission to the area where the ko-do, kon-do, and five-story pagoda are costs 500 yen.  if the five-story pagoda is opened, i recommend buying an admission ticket to this building as well since it is open only a few days a year.  this extra ticket is 300 yen.

due to its proximity to the station and the numerous beautiful statues located in the kon-do (金堂) and ko-do (講堂) halls, as well as the presence of the tallest wooden tower in japan, i recommend visiting this location after you visit the main sites in kyoto.

as you enter the temple grounds, you will have a nice view of the five-story pagoda through the garden near the entrance.


another view from the other side of this small moat.


jiki-do (食堂), the dinning hall at the temple.


next to the miei-do (御影堂), where kukai is believed to have lived.


a pretty statue with a scerene face.


a view of the ko-do, which is used as the lecture hall.  it contains 21 esoteric statues of buddha.  a fantastic place, too bad no photos are allowed.


once you purchase your admission ticket and enter the main area, you will have the beautiful garden and the ko-do in front of you.

in this photo you can see the five-story pagoda behind the garden.


part of ko-do hall.


this is a scanned photo of the inside of ko-do from the pamplet.  sorry for the low quality.


this is kon-do, with ko-do in the foreground.  kon-do is the main hall and infuses a combination of japanese and indian architecture.


a close up of kon-do’s woodden base.


a close-up view of the pagoda.


i was trying to play with the lighting in the photo to bring out the symmetrical shape of the pagoda.


okay, one final photo of the pagoda.  :)


a view of the pond in front of the three buildings.


looking for a meal.


the lighting was improving, so i took another photo of the jiki-do.


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