Constructed almost 1000 years ago between Kyoto and Nara and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Byodoin Buddhist temple is a stark relic of the Heian Period. The temple graceful appearance brings to mind a “Pure Land Paradise” dreamed of by the Heian Period aristocracy in Japan.
The garden, designated by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs as a special place of scenic beauty, is a living monument of the Heian Period. The magnificent garden creates a focal point of admiration around the temple Phoenix Hall, the Aji-ike artificial pond and the surrounding natural scenery of the Uji River and the mountains it flows from.
Brief History of Byodoin Temple
In 1052, Kanpaku (the Chief Advisor to the Emperor) Fujiwara no Yorimichi, the most powerful aristocrat at the time in Japan, transformed a compound building that Minamoto no Shigenobu, the “Muso-Ken” sword art master, had inherited from his wife into a Buddhist temple called Byodoin.
In the following year, the Phoenix Hall (Amida Buddha hall) construction has been completed together with a seated statue of Amitabha Tathagata sculpted by Jocho, the most highly regarded master sculptor of Buddhist images of the Heian Period, and then enshrined inside the Phoenix Hall.
Byodo-in Temple Phoenix Hall
The Phoenix Hall, which is the main building in the temple, consists of a main rectangular structure bounded by two L-shaped wing corridors and a tail corridor, set at the edge of a large artificial pond (Aji-ike Pond).
The building name derived from its similarity to a phoenix with outstretched wings and a tail, with a pair of phoenixes decorating the rooftop.
Byodo-in Temple Amida Statue
Inside the Phoenix Hall, visitors can view a massive image of Amida (The Japanese name of the celestial Buddha) is installed on an elevated platform. The Amida sculpture inside the hall is made of Japanese cypress and is covered with gold leafs.
The statue is constructed with multiple pieces of wood, which are carved out like shells and joined from the inside. The statue measures about three meters high from its face to its knees, and is seated.
Byodo-in Temple Muesum
Byodoin Temple includes and underground treasure house, which was constructed under the temple grounds. The treasure house museum showcase the temple’s most valuable artifacts, including many of designated important cultural properties and Japanese national treasures.
The treasure house also contains informative, multilingual digital displays on Byodoin Temple construction and history.
Byodo-in Temple Renovation
Starting in September 2014 and finish in April 2014, Byodo-in Temple has had its exteriors, including columns, roof bricks and phoenix statues, restored and repainted as part of a repair project, which is the temple’s first repairs since the 1950s.
The completion of restoration work signifies the return of the “spirit” to the seated statue of Amitabha Tathagata.
Address:116 Ujirenge Uji-shi, Kyoto
Take the JR Nara Line and get off at Uji Station
Take the Keihan Uji Line and get off at Keihan Uji Station
Take the Meishin Expressway, and at the Oyamazaki junction, transfer onto the Keiji Bypass. At the West Uji interchange, exit the Keiji Bypass and proceed straight ahead on the lateral service road.
From Nagoya: Take the Meishin and Shin-Meishin Expressways, and at the Seta-higashi Junction, transfer onto the Keiji Bypass. Exit at the East Uji interchange and turn left.
From Nara: Take the Keinawa Expressway, and at the Joyo interchange, turn right onto the Keiji Bypass lateral service road via National Highway No.24.
Junior High/High School Students: 400yen
Grade School Students: 300yen
Shrine Opening Hours:
Gates open at 8:30 am and close at 5:30 pm (last admission at 5:15 pm)
Byodoin Museum Hoshokan
Doors open at 9:00 am and close at 5:00 pm (last admission at 4:45 pm)
Interior of Phoenix Hall
Opens at 9:10 am and closes at 4:10 pm
* Viewing time begins at 9:30 am as 50 people at a time are admitted every 20 minutes