Famous for its towering pagodas, To-ji was established by imperial edict in 796 and called Kyo-o-gokoku-ji, To-ji was built to guard the city. It was one of the only two temples that Emperor Kammu permitted to be built in the city—he had had enough of the powerful Buddhists while in Nara. The temple was later given to the priest Kukai (Kobo Daishi), who founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism at the turn of the 9th century.
Fires and battles during the 16th century
destroyed the temple buildings, but many were rebuilt, including in 1603 the Kon-do (Main Hall), which blends Chinese and Japanese elements. The Ko-do (Lecture Hall), on the other hand, has managed to survive the ravages of war since it was built in 1491. Inside this hall are 15 original statues of Buddhist gods, making up a mandala, considered masterpieces of the Heian era (750–1150). There's a daily morning service at 6 in the Daishi-do with devotional chanting.
On the 21st of each month a market, known locally as Kobo-san, is held. Antique kimonos, fans, and other artifacts can be found at bargain prices if you know your way around the savvy dealers. A smaller antiques market is held on the first Sunday of the month. The temple is a 10-minute walk southwest of Kyoto Station. You can walk from there, or take the Kintetsu subway line one stop. Bus 207 also runs past To-ji.