Attractions

Byodoin Temple

Byodoin Temple

Travel Guide

Introduction

Byodoin Temple is a Buddhist temple founded in 1052, the Hiean period. It is a striking example of Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture. Together with its garden, the temple represents the Pure Land Paradise and was influential on later temple construction.

The most famous building in the temple is the Ho’odo (Phoenix Hall) constructed in 1053. Ho’odo was called Amidado (Amitabha Hall), where Amitabha Tathagata is enshrined.

Ho’odo was built to emulate Buddha's palace in paradise, and the temple is indeed otherworldly. Its graceful lines and warm colors give the building the appearance of a majestic bird spreading its wings.

Byodoin Temple's buildings were repeatedly lost to fires and other calamities over the centuries, however, the Phoenix Hall was never destroyed, making it one of the few original wooden structures to survive from the Heian Period. It appears especially beautiful when its image is reflected on the surface of the surrounding pond. This view is one of the most famous in Japan,

There is a Jodoshiki garden with a pond in front of Ho’odo, which in 1997 was dredged as part of an archeological dig. The gardens are a nationally-designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty incorporating the Jodo style of “borrowed landscape” or classic Heian period garden that includes, well-groomed wave sand patterns, flat bridge and arched bridge now improved around the building.

Japan commemorates its longevity and cultural significance by displaying Ho'odo's image on the 10 yen coin, and the 10,000 yen note features the phoenix image. In December 1994, UNESCO listed the building as a World Heritage Site as part of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto".

In addition, in Byodoin Temple, many cultural artifacts have been passed down from the Heian Period, including the Painting of Dissent of Amitabha in Yamato-e style, Bonsho or temple bell, and a pair of phoenix statues. In particular, the 52 bodies of Unchu Kuyo Bosatsu (Buddhist Saints holding a mass in the clouds) are the only surviving Buddha statues from the 11th century carved of a free but delicate nature, riding in the clouds and playing a variety of musical instruments.

History

This temple was originally built in 998 in the Heian period as a rural villa of high ranking courtier Minamoto no Shigenobu, Minister of the Left. The property was purchased from Minamoto no Shigenobu's wife after he died by Fujiwara no Michinaga, one of the most powerful members of the Fujiwara clan. The villa was made into a Buddhist temple by Fujiwara no Yorimichi, the son of Fujiwara no Michinaga, in 1052.

 

Byodoin Temple Omotemon (main gate)
The approach to Byodoin Temple starts at Ujibashi Bridge and ends at Omotemon. The approach is chosen Fragrant Landscape Top 100 by Ministry of the Environment as there are a lot of tea shops along the approach.

Byodoin Temple Ho'odo (Phoenix Hall)
The Ho'odo was originally intended to represent Amida’s heavenly palace in the Pure Land. The Phoenix Hall is the exemplar of Fujiwara Amida halls. The architecture of the building resembles the shape of the bird and there are two bronze Chinese phoenixes, called hoo in Japanese, perched opposite each other on the roof. It consists of a main rectangular structure flanked by two L-shaped wing corridors and a tail corridor, set at the edge of a large artificial pond. The central hall houses statue of Amitabha Tathagata whose face catches the light of the morning sun. The statue is the only existing Buddhist image confirmed to have been made by Jocho, a sculptor representative of the Heian Period. Ho'odo is also home to 52 statues of Worshiping Bodhisattvas on Clouds and to wall and door paintings that depict Amida's nine grades of descent. Though its official name is Amidado, it began to be called Ho’odo in the beginning of the Edo period. This name is considered to derive both from the building's likeness to a phoenix with outstretched wings and a tail, and the pair of phoenixes adorning the roof.

Byodoin Temple Byodoin Museum Hoshokan
The museum stores and displays most of Byodoin Temple's national treasures, including 26 statues of Worshiping wooden Bodhisattvas on Clouds, the temple bell, the pair of Phoenixes, and other historically noteworthy items. The museum also uses computer graphics to provide virtual exhibitions and is equipped with a reference system that allows convenient access to ultra-high-resolution images of Phoenix Hall. This building was devised especially to make use of optical fiber lighting, and through the balanced combination of nature and space one can best appreciate the artwork on offer.

Byodoin Temple Bonsho
The Bonsho or Temple bell was made in the 11th century casting decorations with images of an angel, lion and arabesque design. The bell is consider one of 3 Greatest Bell in Japan. The other 2 are in Jingoji temple, in Kyoto and the other Onjoji temple, in Ohtsu city. The bell hanging here is a replica. The original one is saved in the museum.

Byodoin Temple Ogi no Shiba (a fan-shaped lawn)
The lawn looks like an open fan. Minamoto no Yorimasa is said to committed suicide here.
 
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Travel Advice

Mappo-shiso

Mappo-shiso was a end-of-the-world theory that originated in China and considered the thousand years after Shaka's death as Shobo, Age of the Right Dharma, the next thousand years as Zobo (Age of the Semblance Dharma) and the next 10,000 years after the two thousand years as 'the latter days of Buddhism' (Mappo) .

The theory was spread in the end of Heian period, provoked for the social instability - consequence of the war between the clan Taira and Minamoto, the misery and the calamities.

People believed that 1052 is the first year of 'the latter days of Buddhism'. In order to go to paradise after death, many nobles built halls for Amida who is the leader of Elysium. Fujiwara no Yorimichi is one of them who want to go to Elysium. Yorimichi converted his father’s villa Ujiden into the temple of Tendai sect in 1052, which is Bodoin Temple today, and built Amida hall in 1053 to accommodate the statue of Amida. The hall is called Ho’odo today.

 
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Visit

Address 116 Uji Renge, Uji-shi, Kyoto
Phone 0774-21-2861
Admission Entrance and Byodoin Hoshokan Museum
Adult: 600 yen (Groups 500 yen)
Student: 400 yen (Groups 300 yen)
Child: 300 yen (Groups 200 yen)

Ho'o-do guided tour
300 yen
Adult: over 18
Student: 12 to 17
Child: 6 to 11
Groups: over 25
Hours Garden
08:30 to 17:30

Byodoin Hoshokan Museum
09:00 to 17:00

Ho'odo guided tour
09:10 to 16:10
Entry until 15 minntes before closing
The tour starts every 20 minutes from 9:30. The tour is in Japanese but scripts are provided in English, Chinese or Korean.
Closed Open 7 Days a Week
Required Time 30 minutes
Getting There By Train
10 minute walk from Uji Station on the JR Nara Line.
10 minute walk from Keihan Uji Station on Keihan Electric Railway Uji Line.

By Car
Take Keiji Bypass to the Uji-higashi exit. It is approximately 5 kilometers from exit.
Parking No parking available
 
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