Daikaku-ji originated as an imperial villa for Emperor Saga, who ruled from 786 to 842. Following his death, Saga’s daughter, the Empress Masako, directed that the villa be converted to serve as a temple. Several of its head priests have been from the imperial family, including emperors who served here following their retirement. The temple also has the distinction of having been featured in the monumental Tale of Genji, Japan’s first novel.