The spindly needle atop the 55 meter (180 foot), five-storied pagoda of To-ji temple keeps protective watch over the city of Kyoto, as it has done since its construction in the early 9th century. The tallest pagoda in Japan, it has become a symbol and iconic image of Kyoto. Several Buddha statues reside inside the famous wooden structure, enhancing its religious and historical allure.
The temple itself dates from 796, two years after the capitol moved to Kyoto. At the time, To-ji, along with a no longer existing sister temple, guarded the capitol. The temple’s feature image is that of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Medicine, further promoting To-ji’s status as a protector. To-ji was one of only three temples allowed in Kyoto in the early years of its reign as capitol, and it’s the only one that still stands today.
From Kyoto Station, To-ji Temple is a brief 15 minute walk southwest. By train, it’s a five minute walk from Toji Station on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. A popular temple market is held at To-ji on the 21st of every month and features antiques, art, clothes, pottery, and food. Entrance into the pagoda is offered on occasional, undefined days of the year. To-ji is open from 9:00am-4:30pm daily.