Kami Daigo, the Origin of Daigo-ji Temple

Daigo-ji Temple in Kyoto houses some of the most ancient buildings in all of Japan. Located just outside of Kyoto City, this temple is a must for people who really want to see the remnants of ancient Japan. However, there is a catch. The temple consists for two parts: Shimo-Daigo and Kami-Daigo[上醍醐]. Shimo-Daigo is the more popular of the two, as it is easier to access, but the origins of Daigo-ji Temple stem from Kami-Daigo. Seated high on its mountain perch Kami-Daigo is indeed harder to reach, but with plenty of Japanese National Treasure buildings that speak of the history of Daigo-ji Temple, the hike is well worth the effort.

※For the history of Daigo-ji Temple, see our post on previous post on Shimo-daigo.

Getting to Kami Daigo

The trail that leads to Kami Daigo is located near Shimo-Daigo’s nyonin-do, which is near the kannon-do in the back of the temple grounds. Since the trail entrance is just outside of the main temple grounds, keep in mind that once you leave this area, you cannot go back to the main temple grounds of Shimo-Daigo!

Entrace of Kami-Daigo Trail

The trail from Shimo-Daigo to Kami-Daigo is 2.5km, and will take roughly an hour to an hour and half. The trail is clearly marked so you won’t get lost. Make sure to bring enough water with you, as there are no vending machines at Kami-Daigo.

Kami-Daigo Trail

Nyonin-do is the starting point for climbing up the mountain. You have to pay and additional 600 yen to climb up the mountain, but if you have a ticket for Shimo-Daigo, you can get 100 yen off!!

Nyorin-do: A long time ago, women could not go any further than the Nyorin-do.
Start of the Kami-daigo trail
Kami-Daigo Trail

The trail starts off very smoothly, but as you go on there are plenty of stairs.

There are 20 stone markers every 108m. These markers are much like the ones found along the Choishi-michi that leads to Koyasan.

Kami-daigo trail stone markers

Temple Grounds

Upon arriving here, you can enjoy some water from the same spring where the temple’s name comes from.

spring of Kami Daigo-ji Temple
Daigo mizu: you can drink this water. After walking for an hour in the hot summer heat this year, this water was very refreshing.

On the temple grounds is Kiyotaki Shrine, the guardian shrine of Daigo-ji.

Kiyotaki Shrine haiden
Haiden of Kiyotaki Shrine: Japanese National Treasure built in the 15th century. Though it looks like a house, but it is indeed part of the shrine. Unfortunately you cannot go inside.
Kiyotaki Shrine Honden: Enshrines Daigo-ji Temple’s guardian goddess. While there is another shrine to her in Shimo-Daigo, this is the original.

Near Kiyotaki Shrine is what is seemingly an empty lot, but in fact this is the heart of Kami-Daigo, the Juntei-do. In a tragic turn of fate, the Juntei-do was struck by lightening and completely burnt down in 2008. Thankfully, while the building itself is gone, the Juntei-do’s kannon statue originally enshrined here, survived and is now in the Kannon-do in Shimo-daigo.

You will need to give yourself about 30 minutes to so to walk around and completely explore Kami-Daigo, since its buildings are spread-out along the top of the mountain.

Kami Daigo-ji Yakushi-do
Yakushi-do: Japanese National Treasure. Built in the 12th century. The statue originally enshrined here is now in the temple museum in Shimo-Daigo.
Godai-do: Enshrines Fudo Myouou. Built in 1940.

Finally, after about an hour and thirty minutes from the entrance is the top of the Mt. Daigo (450m). From there you can visit the the Nyoirin-do and the Kaizan-do.

Kami Daigo-ji Nyoirin-do
Nyoirin-do: Japanese National Treasure. Originally built by the founder of Daigo-ji Temple, Shobo. Rebuilt in the 16th century.
Kaizan-do of Kami Daigo-ji Temple

From here is another trail that leads to Iwama-dera Temple, another stop on the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage though it seems that the trail is blocked now because of the typhoon last year.

Kami-Daigo Temple


1  Daigo Daigoyama, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture





Getting To

See our page of Shimo Daigo 



9:00-16:00 (9:00-15:00 in winter)



600 yen (500 yen if you have a entrance ticket of Shimo Daigo)





One thought on “Kami Daigo, the Origin of Daigo-ji Temple

  • September 16, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Looks great, I’ll have to check this out the next time I’m down south.

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