Ive visited Daoji a number of times,its one of my favorite temples. The gardens are wonderful regardless of the time of year, they look stunning, but each time it looks so different, depending on the season.
It’s a working Soto Zen temple that is more than 600 years old – established in 1404. Within the complex are 7 thatched buildings are designated of cultural property by Tochigi Prefecture. Despite numerous destruction’s and reconstructions there are some parts dating back to 1448.
As you walk up the steps through the cedar trees, a feeling of peace and calm descends almost immediately. The entrance is set in tall cedar woods and is serene and peaceful throughout the entire complex.
On the left as you walk up the steps, sitting in the woods there is are 16 statues of expressive Rakan’s (achievers of Nirvana) were erected in 1994 to commemorate the 600th year anniversary of this temple.
Approaching the top of the steps there is a tall Kannon on the left and the thatched entrance to the main buildings in front of you. Once you enter the gate the thatched roof of the main building confronts you, its immense, truly impressive. All the buildings in the main precinct are joined by a thatched semi open corridor around the edge of the garden.
The main hall is opposite the gate, the building on the left is for Zen meditation, and the building on the right is the priests’ living quarters. I have since discovered that you can enter some buildings, but you need to book in advance and there is a small fee. I am also guessing, it would all be in Japanese, I need an English speaking Buddhist priest to explain this all to me! (actually and a Shinto one – I would dearly love to understand this all better)
Daoji is on the edge of Kurobane on the east side of the Naka River, which flows from the volcanic Mt. Nasu to the Pacific Ocean in Ibaraki. Kurobane was one of Matsuo Basho’s longest stays, during the long walk north in 1689.
There is a museum further up the hill and the remains of Kurobane castle at the top of the hill. The area is also known for its tasty Ayu, a sweet-fish caught in the region by traditional trap methods.
Daoji website – need google chrome for the translation.