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平等院 Byodoin Temple

  • Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals
  • Uji Area
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Uji Area
116 Renge,Uji, Uji-shi, Kyoto 611-0021, Japan
  • Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals
Opening Hours
8:30-17:30 (The entrance gate closes at 17:15)
Open Every Day
Date of post:2015/11/05

Symmetrical beauty with phoenixes

  • Temple / Shrine

When you take the approach to Byoodo-in, you will find many shops which have something to do with tea. That is because this Uji area is very famous for Japanese tea. You can buy tea itself and other sweets or ice cream with green tea powder, matcha. You can try some before or after visiting Byodo-in.

After entering the gate, you will soon find the Phoenix hall, Houou-do, with a pond around it. I recommend you to go to the other side of the pond to appreciate the beauty of symmetrical Houou-do with phoenixes on the top of the roof of the main part. The Phoenix hall is called that way because the shape of the hall itself looks like a phoenix with its wings spread. It is so famous that this scenery is carved on 10 yen coins. It is more beautiful when you see Houou-do with its reflection in the pond. And you can see the face of Amitabha through a small window at the center of the hall. In ancient times, ordinary people could see only the face in that way. Now you can also see the inside of Houou-do. It is said that the inside represents the paradise ("gokuraku" in Japanese). Only the noblemen could go inside in ancient times. In the middle of the room there sits the statue of Amitabha and small statues are attached to the three walls around it. Everything was decorated gorgeously to express the paradise.

Byodo-in used to be a villa of Michinaga FUJIWARA and his son, Yorimichi, turned it into a temple in 1052. Houou-do was completed the next year. The building represents the Heian period (794-1185) style. It is symmetrical, but in the later period the buildings are arranged in asymmetrical ways.

After seeing the hall itself, you can visit the museum attached to the temple. There you can see many treasures of the temple. Especially, there is an original phoenix which used to stand on top of the roof.

If you go back to the JR Uji station, you can go through the shopping street. There are some Japanese tea houses along the street and it may be a good idea to taste a cup of Japanese tea in one of them. I recommend you to try Gyokuro. It is an essence of tea and very sweet without any sugar!

Date of post:2015/10/21

Welcome to the “recreation of Heaven”

  • Temple / Shrine

Byodoin used to be the country villa of a man named Minamoto-no-toru, who is said to be the model of Japan’s old love story hero “The Shining Genji.” Later, the villa was owned by Fujiwara-no-Michinaga (966-1027), who had the most power and became the chief adviser of the emperor at his height. In 1052 his son, Fujiwara-no-Yorimichi, converted the villa into a Buddhist temple and named it “Byodo-in” after his father’s death.

The year 1052 was thought to be the beginning of a decadent age when Buddhism was to be dying out. Pessimism caused by this decadence infected the minds of aristocrats and monks. In this atmosphere, Jodo-shinko (belief in Jodo), which prays for peaceful death and rebirth in nirvana, widely spread throughout society. In 1053, Amidado, which is commonly called “Ho-o-do (Phoenix hall)”, was created and in the hall, the Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata) seated statue was placed. The Amida Nyorai is the Lord of boundless light and life and is believed to be the Buddha of Jodo or the “western Pure Land of the Highest Happiness”. The one in this hall was created by Jocho, the greatest sculptor during the Heian period (794-1192). Although most of the buildings were burnt down during a civil war in the 14th century, the main hall “Ho-o-do” remains intact.

The arrangement of the building looks like the imaginary bird “Ho-o” is spreading its wings and at the top of the roof Ho-o statues are shining.

The hall and its reflection on the pond create a breathtaking beauty and give us a great feeling.

In the treasure house named the “Byodo-in Museum, (Hosho-kan)”, you can see the original Ho-o (Phoenix) bronze statues, “Unchu-kuyo-bosatsu” (Buddhist saints) both made in 1053, and other national treasures of Japan.

Also you can experience an invitation to the “Pure Land” by beautiful Buddhist saints created by computer graphics.

This temple is famous for its seasonal beauties such as cherry blossoms, wisteria and the autumn foliage, too. Together with Ujikami shrine this is a place you shouldn’t miss!

  • * The information above is from the date of the review. Please be aware that some of the content may vary from the most recent information.
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