Japanese Version

Glimpses of Obai-in—a visit to a rarely open-to-the-public, architectural jewel at Daitokuji Monastery.


Time and again, over the past 17 years, I had walked by the dark brown gate of Obai-in that frames both the mossy entry garden and the “no admittance” sign. Recently, however, I was finally able to go inside, during a rare public opening. Founded in the late 1500’s, this unusually large sub-temple reveals itself through dramatic wooden corridors, courtyards, mossy green expanses, scroll gardens, tearooms and countless highly crafted architectural details.  The garden in the above image was designed by legendary tea-master, Sen no Rikyu.


Part of the Rinzai-Zen sect, Obai-in is the home to 44 full-sized fusuma paintings by 16th century artist, Unkoku Togan.  The above painting is part of the series named Seven Hermits in the Bamboo Grove.

5 thoughts on “Glimpses of Obai-in—a visit to a rarely open-to-the-public, architectural jewel at Daitokuji Monastery.

  1. Marjorie Eaton

    You’re accurate Steve, this is a rare jewel opportunity;
    I love the portal views – beckening one to approach and enter
    you were welcomed.
    Blessings to you, Ritsuko and Ron
    LLL, Marjorie

  2. Mora & Linda

    Thank you for providing us an opportunity to relive our experience visiting Obai-in last December. The peaceful solitude made the iciness of the day a mere after-thought.

  3. Pennie Wilson

    This blog is fab, Nini Izumi sent it to me and I feel so grateful. I too visited the Art Island and Isuma Nagouchi’s studio and house last year and am returning next month to visit the six ancient kiln sites. I am a potter who loves all things Japanese. Unfortunately we are timed to miss the Cherry Blossoms but I know that their blueprint is there.

  4. Tom Burton

    Hi Steve – on one of my tours with you I had the opportunity to visit the fabulous Obai-in. I had elected to go off on my own for some reason and came upon the open gate and toured the whole place and even took some pictures before being politely told, no pictures allowed. I was taken by how beautifully restored and pristine everything was.

  5. Esteban Beita

    Hello, you are very right, this is a great temple to visit, the head monk is also very friendly as well as all the people who work there. I am a researcher on Traditional Japanese architecture at Tokyo University, and from all the temples which I have visited in kyoto, this is one of my favorite ones. For my research I have been traveling to this temple for serveral years now, each time trying to photograph it at different times of the year. Well if you want to see more pictures of this temple I have some here, http://www.estebanbeita.com