Tôji monastery, (in) Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, JP

Raw data

Tôji (East Temple) and Saiji (West Temple) were positioned on either side of Rashômon Gate in the southern edge of the city. They flanked the great Suzaku Avenue, which stretched north to the Imperial Palace at the northern edge of the city limits. These were the only two temples initially allowed by the imperial court in Heian-kyô. They were built to protect the city, and to conduct memorial rites for deceased emperors. Each temple occupied four city blocks (a little more than 14 acres). Shingon patriarch Kûkai (Kôbô-Daishi, 774–835) arranged for an annual rite to be performed in a chapel in the imperial palace by monks from Tô-ji.

Tôji became an exclusively Shingon temple when Emperor Saga ordered Kûkai, who had studied esoteric Shingon Buddhism in China, to become the abbot in 819, only three years after he founded Kôyasan. Saga’s successor, Junna, decreed in 824 that Tôji would be limited to fifty monks of Kûkai’s Shingon lineage.

A rivalry broke out between Tôji and Kôyasan when Abbot Shinzei and his successor proposed to the court that monks should be ordained at Tôji instead of at the more distant Kôyasan, which had been the practice since 835. Shinzen, abbot of Kôyasan, argued that Kôyasan had more right to ordain, since it housed Kûkai’s tomb. Over the next ten years, the two monasteries quarreled until the court stepped in and declared that Tôji, Kôyasan and Takaosanji could each ordain a specified number of monks .

In 915, Abbot Kangen of Tôji launched another dispute with Kôyasan by demanding the return of the Sanjûjô sakushi scrolls that Kûkai had brought back from China. Kôyasan finally surrendered them in 919, at which point the court decided that from then on Tôji’s abbot would also hold the position of “overseer” (de facto abbot) of Kôyasan. Tô-ji later lost the scrolls to Ninnaji in 1186.

- Shively & McCullough, eds. (1999: 107, 117, 478, 477, 498-9, 501)

Kûkai petitioned the Emperor to make Tôji become an exclusively Shingon temple. The purpose of Tôji and its sister temple Saiji was to protect the capital, not to become a center for Nara Buddhism. Emperor Kanmu appears to have been trying to distance the court from Nara Buddhism, while moving the capital from Nara to Kyoto in 794. In 838, Tôji followed a trend (started by Saichô) to appoint a lay administrator from the court to supervise monastic affairs. This position strengthened ties between the nobility and the temple.

- Groner (2000: 13, 87, 270-1)

Construction of Tôji began in 796, and was carried out over more than thirty years. Kûkai added a lecture hall in 825, although the five-story pagoda remained incomplete. Today, all the buildings date to the early Tokugawa period (1600–1868), except for the lecture hall, which was rebuilt in 1491.

- “Asian Historical Architecture: Tô-ji Temple” http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/japan/kyoto/toji.php

Tôji's 57-meter (180-foot), five-story pagoda (rebuilt in 1695) is said to be the tallest tower made of wood in Japan. Inside the lecture hall (kôdô), there are fifteen statues of Buddhist deities dating to the 8th and 9th centuries. The main object of worship is the Yakushi Nyorai, the healing Buddha (Bhaisajyaguru).

- “Sacred Destinations: Toji, Kyoto” http://www.sacred-destinations.com/japan/kyoto-toji.htm

Input by: Lizbeth H. Piel, Jun 23, 2010

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 7 Nov 2012

Lat/Long coordinates' accuracy:
The monastery in question is assumed to be situated actually no farther than 200 m from the point defined by the coordinates below.

Location of Toji monastery, JP.

General location of the Toji monastery, JP.
Lat 34.9806 Long 135.7470
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (http://www.fallingrain.com), 2010.

Google Map link:


Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Tôji 東寺. Alternative English spelling: Tô-ji, Toji

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Japan: Kyôto Prefecture

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

  • Kyôô-gokokuji – Shively & McCullough, eds. (1999: 522)
  • East Temple - Shively & McCullough, eds. (1999: 107, 117, 478, 477, 498-9, 501)

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx., Lat 34.9806 Long 135.7470, based on visual identification of the monastery in maps, maps.google.com - tmciolek, 24 Jun 2010.

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

  • Ninnaji, Saionji (now defunct)

6. Modern name of the known nearest city, town, or village

  • Kyôto-shi (Kyoto City), Minami-ku, Kujô-chô

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

  • Mahayana

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

  • Shingon: Tômitsu

11. Date-early

  • MBM chrono-tag: 0767-99c - tmciolek 13 Dec 2012
  • 0767-99c 0800-32c 0833-66c 0867-99c 0900-32c 0933-66c 0967-99c 1000-32c 1033-66c 1067-99c 1100-32c 1133-66c 1167-99c 1200=> dated-el

12. Date-intermediate

13. Date-late

  • MBM chrono-tag: 1200=> - tmciolek 7 Nov 2012

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • A rivalry with Koyasan during the 9th and 10th centuries
  • Tôji was the head temple of Chinkoji monastery - Piggott, ed. (2006: 272)

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Documents, architecture

16. Additional notes

  • Fifty monks in 824 – Shively & McCullough (1999: 477)

17. Corrections & addenda to this page were kindly provided by

  • [missing data]

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