• Tour code: 5163_VIP_TOJI
  • Location: Kyoto, Japan
  • Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

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Get a rare glimpse into one of Kyoto’s most important temples accompanied by a monk-guide on this 2.5-hour Viator tour — a VIP experience available nowhere else. In a small group limited to eight, enjoy special access to restricted areas of the To-ji Temple as your monk shares tales of the UNESCO World Heritage–protected site. Explore the 5-story pagoda, a symbol of Kyoto usually closed to visitors, and admire the statues and architecture of Kondo and Kodo halls. Lastly, try your hand at the Buddhist calligraphy technique of 'shakyo.’


  • 2.5-hour Viator VIP tour of To-ji Temple in Kyoto
  • Enjoy rare access to the beautiful, UNESCO-listed temple with a resident monk
  • Tour the famous, 5-story pagoda, Japan’s tallest, and normally off-limits to the public
  • Learn about the rare Buddha statues and architecture in the Kondo and Kodo halls
  • Try shakyo, an ancient Buddhist calligraphy used to copy sacred texts, in Jikido Hall
  • Small-group tour limited to eight people for a more personalized experience

Why Our Insiders Chose This Tour

What You Can Expect

Viator VIP: Special Access to To-ji Temple with Resident Monk

Viator VIP: Special Access to To-ji Temple with Resident Monk

Make your own way to To-ji Temple, one of Kyoto’s UNESCO-listed sites, and be greeted by a member of temple staff. After a short orientation, meet your resident monk, who will act as your guide for your tour.

Follow your monk around the 5-story pagoda, the tallest in Japan at 180 feet (55 meters), and only accessible to guests on this tour. Learn how it dates to 876, but rebuilt in 1644 after a fire.

See the highlights of the first floor, including the four Buddha statues, and hear about the temple’s history from your monk. Study the Buddhist decorative art on the walls and pillars, and marvel at the engineering that has kept the structure standing for four centuries.

Head inside Kondo Hall, a splendid example of Momoyama-period architecture reconstructed in 1602 after fire destroyed it in1486. Admire the three large Buddha statues and 12 figurines of divine generals, and then switch your sights to Kodo Hall, the lecture hall.

Learn how it began life in 825 before being burned down in the 1486 fire, and later reconstructed in its original style. See the 21 Buddha statues, some dating to Japan’s Heian period (794-1185), and then enter the Jikido Hall.

Take a seat in the reserved area, and watch a brief presentation on shakyo calligraphy, hosted by your guide-monk. Learn about this ancient copying of sutras (Buddhist scriptures), and how it is practiced as a meditative skill, and to accrue blessings from Buddha. See your monk at work, and try shakyo yourself using a pen and paper. Experience the calm and focus that comes with it, and receive a copy as a keepsake, and another copy to leave in the temple as an offering.

After another hour exploring the temple buildings and gardens, your tour ends when you bid goodbye to your monk.

Viator 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. Viator VIP tours are not available from other 3rd-party online sellers.

Customer Reviews

Bing USA

5 star rating: Highly Recommended July 2015

This tour was beyond my imagination from the beginning to the end. Our guide was exceptional: professional and passionate. We met up with the highest ranked monk during the tour, and were shown inside the pagoda just like a VIP. He told me so many interesting stories from his own life and perspective towards Buddhism, to the secret behind the architecture which survived number of earthquakes. He is such a wise man which enlightened me with how each individual gets connected to the Buddhas. The Buddhist statues are so vivid and they bring me back to the ancient Edo period. I wouldn't learn so much without joining this VIP tour. Thank you Viator

Shou W

5 star rating: Highly Recommended July 2015

I have been to Kyoto many times, going to To-ji temple and other touristy cultural places. But I've never toured around a To-ji with a monk and a certified guide before and wow, I definitely gained a whole Japanese history book worth of information. He lead us through To-ji temple, stopping at each building while other tourists were looking at us like we were some special guests for the temple. This tour made me feel very important and gained deeper appreciation for To-ji after learning about its history and fun facts! Definitely once in a life time experience!

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