This single building was what drew me to Daigo-ji 「Daigo Temple, 醍醐寺」 during one hot Kyoto summer (well that, plus I’m on a mission to see all of the 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kyoto). This gojūnotō 「Five-Storied Pagoda, 五重塔」is a national treasure. It was built in the year 951 AD and has stood solidly ever since.

Daigo Temple’s Five-Storied Pagoda
「Daigo-ji Gojūnotō, 醍醐寺五重塔」

Daigo-ji Temple in Kyoto - Gojūnotō 「Five Storied Pagoda, 五重塔」
Panasonic DMC-LX3 (5.1mm, f/4.5, 1/250 sec, ISO80)
This pagoda has stood since 951, well over 1000 years old.

The pagoda is simply breathtaking to get up so close to, standing in awe of its semi-ancient status. Visitors can walk right up to a small fence surrounding the lower levels, directly under the eaves of the pagoda’s five stories. Unfortunately for the tourist, you cannot enter the pagoda itself, as it houses some extremely old and very important paintings.

The pagoda is one of the most important buildings in Daigo-ji’s lower precinct. The structure has been lucky to escape fire over the centuries. The unique design of the Japanese pagoda is virtually invincible against earthquakes. In Japan there have never been any recorded incidents where a pagoda has been toppled by an earthquake.

Each level of the pagoda can sway and move independently around a central column. The wooden joints on each level also absorb the energy of earthquakes

Meaning behind the gojūnotō kanji characters:

= go, five

= jyuu (jū), pile up

= tou (tō), pagoda

Inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage sign

The five-storied pagoda in the lower precinct, built in 951, is Kyoto’s oldest reliably dated extant building. Majestic and unshakable in appearnace, this pagoda reveals its origins as an esoteric Buddhist structure by the paintings of the mandalas to be found inside on the ground floor.
World Cultural Heritage Sites, Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto

View more photos of the pagoda and the full Daigo-ji, Kyoto travel guide.

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