Toji Temple literally "East Temple", was founded at the beginning of the Heian Period just after the capital was moved to Kyoto in the late 700s. The large temple flanked the south entrance to the city and served as the capital's guardian temples. Toji Temple is one of Kyoto's many UNESCO world heritage sites.
About thirty years after the temple's establishment, Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, was appointed head priest of Toji, and the temple became one of the most important Shingon temples besides the sect's headquarters on Mount Koya. Kobo Daishi also added many of the large wooden buildings that stand on the grounds today.
Toji's five storied pagoda is the most viewed temple in Kyoto. Not only because it is almost 57 metres high, making it the tallest wooden tower in Japan, but because it is easily seen from the bullet train. The pagoda was originally erected by Kobo Daishi in 826. It has become a symbol of both the temple and Kyoto as it can be seen from many places across the city. The ground floor of the pagoda is irregularly opened to the public and houses four smaller Buddha statues.
A popular flea market is held on the 21st of each month at Toji Temple from the early morning hours until around 16:30 in the afternoon. The lively market is crowded with vendors on the plaza and in the park that surround the paid temple grounds. A wide variety of new and second hand goods are on sale, including clothes, tools, sculptures, kimono, antiques, pottery, toys, food and plants. A smaller antiques market is held on the first Sunday of the month.
Five blocks south stroll along the Omiya Dori (Dori means street), where you can see the five storied pagoda. Toji temple can be reached in 10 minutes walk from Kyoto Catholic House.