To-ji Temple
Kyoto, Japan

To-ji, or "East Temple" (794), is located near Kyoto Station, just east of the site of Rashomon Gate, the southern entrance to Kyoto. There was originally a West Temple on the other side of the gate, but neither the West Temple nor Rashomon itself have survived. The purpose of the temples was to protect the main entrance to emperor Kammu's newly built capital. In 823, To-ji was dedicated to the Shingon sect under the sect's founder, Kukai (Kobo Daishi, 774-835). The temple contains numerous outstanding statues, many with influences from India, related to Esoteric Buddhism.

By all accounts, Kukai was a universal genius. A friend of the common people, he believed that Buddhist salvation was available to everyone, not just aristocrats. He created schools and hospitals for commoners, wrote the first dictionary of Japanese, and contributed technical improvements for agriculture and civil engineering (roads and bridges).

The temple's large, double-roofed Kondo (main hall) is shown here. It contains a Yakushi triad. The hall was originally built in 796, burned down in 1486, and reconstructed by Toyotomi Hideyori in 1603.