Recently Japanese citizens, tourists, and foreign residents alike are saying that temples in Japan are becoming overly crowded. I, however, am not one to complain! In every town, there lies a hidden gem or area off the beaten path that you can discover. Since I have been to all the major temples in Kyoto already, I decided to check out Daigoji for their yearly festival in February: The Godai Rikison Ninnoe Festival.
Daigoji is a beautiful Buddhist temple located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, approximately 30 minutes from Kyoto Station. It is famous for its red architecture (which looks most alluring in the fall with the autumn leaves), and also the golden Buddha statue you can see in one of the smaller pavilions. The Godai Rikison Ninnoe Festival is held on February 23rd every year (I was lucky because this year it was on a Saturday), where monks pray in a public ceremony for “peace, health, and happiness of the country and people”.
What I liked about this temple was that it wasn’t overly crowded, and most of the people there were Japanese families praying and partaking in the festival activities. Traveling here felt like a journey because the temple itself was located approximately 15 mins uphill from where the station is. Though it wasn’t a long hike, it is just the right amount of time for people who want to go multiple places in the city.
I arrived around 11:30am and was just in time to see the monks delivering their prayer ceremony! I was very happy to witness such an event. Though I didn’t fully understand the cultural significance of everything, people treated me with a lot of kindness. One monk asked (in English) where I was from and what I thought of the festival. I responded that I had been to a similar festival at Mt. Takao, but it was refreshing to get out of the city and be at peace here.
Though this is the biggest event at Godaiji, there are numerous seasonal events too! I recommend this temple for those who want to get away from the crowds.