Byōdōin is a much-loved Pure Land Buddhist temple in the city of Uji in the Kyoto prefecture. A National Treasure and a World Heritage Site, its outline is featured on the ¥10 coin.
History of Byodoin
Built in 998 AD during the Heian period, Byodoin was originally a private residence (like most Japanese temples). It was converted into a temple by a member of the Fujiwara clan in 1052. The Phoenix Hall was added in 1053 to house the Amida Buddha image.
The temple complex was once much larger; most of the additional buildings burned down during the civil war in 1336. Originally, the pond's beach stretched up to the Uji River, with mountains on the opposite side of the river as a background. The entire scenic area encompassing the temple was a representation of the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) on earth.
Today, the Phoenix Hall is virtually all that remains and Byodoin is one of the few examples of Heian temple architecture left in Japan. Japan has commemorated the longevity and cultural significance of Byodoin by displaying its image on the 10 yen coin. The Phoenix Hall, the great statue of Amida inside it, and several other items at Byodoin are Japanese National Treasures.
And it's not just Japan that cherishes this temple. A full-size replica of Byodoin was built in 1968 at the Valley of the Temples on O'ahu, Hawaii. In December 1994, UNESCO listed the building as a World Heritage Site.
What to See
The most famous building in the temple is the Phoenix Hall (Ho-oh-Do/Hoohdo) or Amida Hall, built with the sole purpose of housing the Amida Buddha image. It has three wings, creating an image of the mythical bird of China, the phoenix. The central hall is flanked by twin wing corridors on both sides, plus a "tail" corridor. The roof of the hall is surmounted by bronze phoenixes.
The central hall houses a revered statue of Amida Buddha, who is accompanied by 52 wooden statues of bodhisattvas placing musical instruments and dancing on clouds. Seated at the western edge of a pond, the golden Amida statue catches the first rays of the rising sun.
On the grounds is Byodoin's temple bell, one of the most famous bells in Japan. A National Treasure, it bears no inscriptions but has reliefs of maidens and lions; it is thought to display Korean influences. The grounds also contain a monument to Minamoto Yorimasa, who took his own life here after being defeated by the rival Taira clan.
Finally, Byodoin boasts the most beautiful of Japan's few remaining Pure Land Gardens, a garden type which was popular during the Heian Period. It was unearthed in 1997 as part of an archeological dig.
Byodoin is a 10-15 minute walk from JR Uji Station on the JR Nara Line. (There's a map of the town at the front of the station.) There are frequent local and rapid trains between Kyoto and Uji, taking between 15 and 25 minutes and costing 230 Yen for the one-way trip.
Alternatively, you can take the Keihan Uji Line from central Kyoto (Shijo Station) to Uji. The one way trip takes 30 minutes and costs 300 Yen. Byodoin is a 5 minute walk from Keihan Uji Station.
Quick Facts on Byodoin
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||34.889292° N, 135.807708° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Byodoin|
- Fodor's Japan, 17th ed.
- Frommer's Japan, 8th ed.
- Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto - UNESCO World Heritage List
- Byodoin Temple - Oriental Architecture
- Byodoin Temple - Kansai Digital Archives
- Reviews of Byodoin Temple - TripAdvisor traveler reviews
- Photos of Byodoin - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Byodoin, Kyoto
Below is a location map and aerial view of Byodoin. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.