Byodo-in Temple is one that all Japanese people have seen — on the back of a 10-yen coin. The Buddhist temple is most well-known for the view of its Phoenix Hall reflected onto the surrounding pond. It's said that Byodo-in’s main hall was designed to resemble a ‘Buddhist Pure Land’, or Buddha’s palace in paradise.
Originally, Byodo-in was built in 1053 as a Fujiwara villa, to house the regents of that era. Thus, the temple buildings are a classic example of Heian Period architecture, one of the few that remain standing to this day.
The name ‘Phoenix Hall’ was inspired by the silhouette of the Amida-do Hall reflected onto the water — resembling a phoenix spreading its wings. In the early 17th century, word began to spread of the ‘Phoenix Hall’, likely also spurred by the figures of two golden phoenixes on the rooftop.
Byodo-in’s Amida-do or Phoenix Hall is designated a National Treasure, and the temple grounds themselves are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Kannon-do Hall and Yorin-an Shoin Residence buildings are also Important Cultural Properties, as appointed by the local government. Both buildings are currently not open for public viewing, but visitors can admire their exterior architecture that was established back in 12th and 17th century Japan.
Photos of the exterior of the Hall are best taken just after the temple opens, at 8:30am. At 9am the Houou-do starts taking in tour groups in limited numbers. No photographs are allowed inside any of the buildings, including the museum.
Since 1951, the Phoenix Hall of Byodo-in has been engraved into the minds of all Japanese people — with its place on the back of the everyday 10-yen coin. The hall itself was once meant to house the regents of the Fujiwara clan, but has since been converted into a place of worship for Buddhists. Within it can be found the Amitabha Tathagata statue, a designated National Treasure of Kyoto. Look out for the two golden phoenixes atop the roof of the aptly named Phoenix Hall.
On the sprawling temple grounds is a traditional Japanese garden. Designed based on the Jodo Garden style, it is a prime example of Heian period gardens. The landscape of the garden was designed to recreate the ‘Buddhist Pure Land’, complemented by the clear Aiji-ike Pond and majestic backdrop of the surrounding mountains. Byodo-in’s garden is also the oldest remaining Jodo-style garden, and was thus enshrined as a National Historic and Scenic Beauty Site.
10-minute walk from JR Uji Station on the JR Nara Line 10-minute walk from Keihan Uji Station on the Keihan Railway Uji Line
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