When you arrive at To-ji Temple, part of the 'Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto' UNESCO World Heritage site, a member of the staff greets you at the South Gate and welcomes you inside for a short orientation. Then meet a temple monk, who accompanies you to the iconic 5-story pagoda, only accessible to participants on this VIP tour.
The pagoda was originally completed in the year 876, but fires have since damaged it; the present building dates to 1644 and stands 180 feet (55 meters) high, the tallest traditional Japanese wooden building that exists today. Spend about 30 minutes exploring the first floor with your monk-guide, who tells you about the temple’s history and traditions, such as the significance of the pagoda’s four Buddha statues. Admire the Buddhist pictures and motifs that decorate pillars and walls, examine the pagoda's striking architecture up close, and marvel over the impressive engineering that has kept the building standing for hundreds of years.
Next, visit Kondo Hall, a classic Momoyama-era building. The present structure was finished in 1602 after fires destroyed earlier versions. Inside, admire the three principle Buddha statues and the 12 statues of divine generals that flank them, and then continue to Kodo Hall, originally built in 825 and rebuilt in 1491. Hear about the significance of its 21 Buddha statues, some of which date to the Heian period (794-1185).
Continue to Jikido Hall and take a seat in the private section reserved for you for a short presentation from your monk about shakyo, the practice of hand-copying a sutra (sacred text). With provided pen and paper, you have about 20 minutes to try your own shakyo, which is traditionally spent in quiet reflection and devotion. When completed, take home one copy of your work as a souvenir, and leave one copy in the temple as an offering.
During the last hour of your visit, your guide shares informative commentary about To-ji Temple and Kyoto as you tour the rest of the buildings and gardens, the final touch on this unique experience.
VIPs feature travel experiences not typically available to the general public — from behind-the-scenes access to private viewings and VIP service — at many of the world’s top attractions, often with no lines and no crowds. VIP tours are not available from other 3rd-party online sellers.