In the vain pursuit of maple trees
A major figure of Zen Buddhism, Tofukuji especially delights enthusiasts of momiji, the red foliage that the maple trees adorn in the fall.
Like Kodaiji, Tofukuji belongs to the Rinzai Zen Buddhist sect. Stemming from an ambitious idea, it had to be the largest temple in Japan, based on two Nara temples, Todaiji with a huge Buddha and Kofukuji with a tall pagoda. It did however suffer ill fortune, as it was the victim of two fires in 1319 and 1334 and was destroyed in 1881. Although it has since been rebuilt, it has been constantly reorganized, with some elements that did not survive, such as its cherry trees, which were removed in the 15th century.
The main interest of the temple is its large gate, the Sammon Gate, classified as Japanese national treasure since 1952, which is impressive for its size and as is pleasant to cross, after taking the bridge over the nearby river. It would be difficult to say that the beautiful Zen gardens lend themselves to meditation as the temple is unfortunately a victim of its success and the number of visitors does not make it possible to find the serenity necessary for this practice.
The outdoor setting is beautiful to see. In autumn, the scenery becomes magical when maples imported from China by the founder of Tofukuji Shoichi Kokushi (1202-1280), put on glowing colors that give the impression that the whole landscape is ablaze.
Admiring them from the wooden Tsutenkyo bridge that sinks into the foliage is like taking a dive for the hundreds of tourists who come from all over Japan to watch the show at dusk. As Basho said: "This autumn sunset, looks like the Land of Shadows."
Address, timetable & access
Phone+81(0)75 561 0087.