History Podcasts

Phoenix Hall, Byodo-in

Phoenix Hall, Byodo-in

The Byodo-in Temple 宇治平等院

The temple and the 10 yen coin

The Fenghuang or Chinese phoenix, overlooking the famous "Phoenix Hall" at Byodo-in temple in Kyoto.

Byodo-in is considered a fine example of aristocratic art of the Heian period (794-1185).

The central hall of the Temple Byodo-in (Kyoto), before its renovation.

General definition (in Buddhism)

Byodo in is a Buddhist temple in the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. It is jointly a temple of the Jodo Shu (Pure Land) and Tendai sects.

This temple was originally built in 998 in the Heian period as a rural villa of Fujiwara no Michinaga, one of the most powerful members of the Fujiwara clan. This villa was changed to a Buddhist temple by Fujiwara no Yorimichi in 1052. The most famous building in the temple is the Phoenix Hall (hoo do) or the Amida Hall, constructed in 1053. The only remaining original building is the Phoenix Hall, surrounded by a scenic pond additional buildings making up the compound were burnt down during a civil war in 1336

The History of Phoenix Hall

This blog will explain the history of Phoenix Hall, what Phoenix Hall is famous for, and how it is viewed in present modern society today. The Phoenix Hall located in the city of Uji, Japan in Kyoto, is the only remaining original building of the Heian and Edo period. It was founded by Fujiwara no Yorimichi in 1052. It was built in 993 as a rural villa for the high ranking courtier, Minamoto no Shigenobu, who was the Minister of the Left. The property was purchased by Minamoto no Shigenobu's wife after he passed away by Fujiwara no Michinaga, one of the most famous Fujiwara clan members. In later years, it was made into a Buddhist temple that was completed in 1053. Due to the civil war in 1336, many of the surrounding buildings that complete Byodo-in were burnt down and destroyed rendering them useless. In Japanese the Phoenix Hall is located inside the Byodo-in and is also called the Amida-do and the Hoo-do. It began to be called the Phoenix Hall in the Edo period due to how the displays on the roofs of the halls was a Chinese phoenix called a hoo in Japanese.

Phoenix Hall is so popular today that the image of it adorns the Japanese 10 yen coin and 10 thousand yen note. Byodo-in has its own museum called the Byodo-in museum. The museum includes 52 wooden Bodhissattvas, the phoenix of the south end hall, and the temple bell, as well as many other important artifacts of the past. A famous part of Phoenix Hall is the one sculpture of Amida Buddha. The statue is about three meters high and seated. The Amida Buddha statue is made out of Japanese cypress covered with gold leaf. Small carvings of celestials were believed to accompany Amida Buddha when he descended from paradise to gather souls of believers. Outside the Phoenix Hall lies a Jodo-shiki garden with a pond included in the front. It creates a tranquil feeling over the whole building.

Today the Phoenix Hall is considered a national treasure, even going so far to make a half-sized replica of the famous monument in O'ahu, Hawaii. It is listed as an "Ancient Monument of Kyoto". The gardens are so well known, they are listed as a nationally designated historic site and a place of scenic beauty, rightfully titled so. The Phoenix Hall is truly world-renowned!

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in, initially created as a villa for Fujiwara-no-Michinaga, was converted to a temple by Fujiwara Yorimichi in 1052. The Phoenix Hall was constructed the following year (1053) to enshrine a statue of the Amida Buddha. A National Treasure, it is the only building at the temple dating back to the time of the temple’s establishment. Its graceful appearance conjures up a paradise dreamed of by the Heian aristocracy. The garden, a Pure Land (Jodo)-style borrowed landscape garden, has been designated as a special place of scenic beauty and was a favorite among the aristocracy of the Heian Period.

The main hall of Byodo-in Temple was built to emulate Buddha’s palace in paradise. Its graceful lines and warm colors give the building the appearance of a majestic bird spreading its wings. It is

popularly known as the “Phoenix Hall,” and when seen with its reflection on the large pond in front, it almost appears to be gliding above the earth. This view is one of the most famous in Japan, and even has been replicated on the back of the 10 Yen coin.

Inside, the temple houses a statue of Amida Buddha, whose face catches the light of the morning sun. Surrounding him are graceful depictions of Boddhisattvas in a variety of poses. These delicately carved national treasures ride on clouds while dancing, reading sutras or playing various musical instruments. All are said to be the work of the priest and master sculptor, Jocho. The Phoenix Hall also houses other numerous cultural assets from the Heian Period: Yamato-e style paintings depicting Amida’s nine grades of descent and a Buddhist Temple Bell.

The Hoshokan (museum), exhibits various treasures from Byodin, including a Buddhist Temple Bell, a pair of Phoenixes and 26 statues of Worshipping Bodhisattvas on Clouds. The museum also uses computer graphics to provide virtual exhibitions of the original interior appearance of the Phoenix Hall.

How to get to Byodo-in

Byodo-in is located in the city of Uji about halfway between the cities of Kyoto and Nara. Take the Nara line from Kyoto (Tracks 8, 9 or 10 at Kyoto station) to Uji, and follow the signs to the temple. Uji is 15 minutes from Kyoto by express train and 30 minutes by local train. The temple is about a 15 minute walk from the train station. Uji is also known around Japan for its green tea. Along the walk to the temple, you will encounter numerous shops specializing in green tea.

Phoenix Hall

Officially called Amidado Hall, Phoenix Hall is the jewel in Byodoin’s crown. It earned its nickname thanks to the two phoenix statues on its roof, and the fact that its elegant shape resembles a bird spreading its wings.

Go in the summer season for pink lotus flowers.

This intricate wooden building has managed to survive intact since its construction in 1053, making it one of the rare surviving structures from the Heian Period. Seated on an island in the middle of a large pond, it’s this section of Byodoin Temple that’s featured on the ¥10 coin.

For the full story, take a short guided tour of the Phoenix Hall, which is available every 20 minutes. The tour is conducted in Japanese only, but English-language brochures are available.

Phoenix Hall Resplendent After Full Restoration

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A Trip To Uji

To the south of Kyoto lies Uji, a small city famed for its green tea, its World Heritage sites, and its association with the Tale of Genji – the world’s first novel. Michael Lambe takes us on a comprehensive walking tour of this beautiful city and its most important cultural sites.

The Byodo-in Temple is a World Heritage Site and Uji’s most famous tourist location – image © Michael Lambe

Arriving in Uji

Set in a green valley to the south of Kyoto, Uji is a beautiful city with a number of fascinating historic sites clustered on the banks of the fast-flowing Uji-gawa River. Most of these locations can easily be visited in the course of a single day. A 20-minute train trip from Kyoto, Uji has two main stations, JR Uji and Keihan Uji, but for the purposes of our walking tour, the Keihan station offers better access to the sites we wish to visit. All the major sites are well signposted so it is easy to find your way around.

Ujibashi Bridge, Murasaki Shikibu & Byodo-in Omotesando Street

The Uji-bashi Bridge – image © Michael Lambe

The first major site to greet you as you exit Keihan Uji Station is Uji-bashi Bridge. A sign by the road proudly declares it to be one of the oldest bridges in Japan, which is partially true as a wooden bridge was first built here in 646. Since then, the Uji-bashi Bridge has been celebrated in art and literature, fought over in war, destroyed by fires and disasters and rebuilt numerous times. Viewing the modern incarnation of wood-trimmed concrete and steel though, one might wonder what all the fuss is about. Today, the best way to appreciate this bridge is to walk across to its mid-way point and look south down the river at the radiant landscape of green hills, and rushing waters crossed by quaint red wooden bridges. The town of Uji itself is remarkably well-preserved.

The statue of Murasaki Shikibu and the Uji-bashi Bridge – image © Michael Lambe

On the far side of the bridge is a statue of Murasaki Shikibu, the world’s first novelist. A poet and lady-in-waiting in the Imperial court, early in the 11th century she wrote about the romantic adventures of a “shining prince” in her Tale of Genji. As the last ten chapters of this literary classic are set in Uji, many sites around town are associated with the story and we will learn more about her work later on the tour when we visit the Tale of Genji Museum.

Byodo-in Omotesando Street – image © Michael Lambe

Bid goodbye to Murasaki Shikibu for now, and continue on to Byodo-in Omotesando Street. Uji is famous as a center of green tea production, and this quaint street is packed with shops selling tea and tea-related products. Here you can try tea-flavored “dango” dumplings, tea-flavored noodles, tea-flavored ice creams and tea-flavored donuts. Feel free to saunter and explore the souvenir shops and eateries before heading on to our next destination: Byodo-in Temple.

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in Temple is one of two World Heritage locations in Uji and rightly famous for its spectacular Phoenix Hall or Hoo-do. To enter the temple buy a 600 yen ticket which grants you access to the temple grounds and museum. To view inside the Phoenix Hall itself, an additional 300 yen ticket can be purchased from another ticket desk inside the grounds. First things first though, after paying your entry fee, take the left hand path around the lotus pond and admire the view.

The Phoenix Hall of the Byodo-in – image © Michael Lambe

If you happen to have a 10 yen coin on you, you might want to contrast and compare at this point. That’s the Phoenix Hall depicted on the coin’s flip-side. Celebrated for its graceful symmetry, the building consists of a central hall and two long corridors which create the impression of wings. The central hall appears to be two stories high, but is actually just one story built extra tall to house the huge 3-meter-high statue of Amida Buddha which is seated within.

On the roof of the Phoenix Hall are two golden birds, phoenixes of course. These are replicas of the originals which are now housed in the temple museum – image © Michael Lambe

Fujiwara-no-Yorimichi (992-1074), a Heian era noble, had inherited a villa here and in the autumn of his years he decided to build a temple on the villa’s grounds. From his residence he could view the Phoenix Hall across the lotus pond and as dusk fell the last rays of the sun would catch the face of the golden Amida Buddha within and shine out at him promising redemption. Many other temple buildings were built before Yorimichi passed away, but both they and his residence have gone. Only the Phoenix Hall (built in 1053) remains – and what a treasure it is!

Behind the Byodo-in Museum is a temple bell. This is a replica of the Heian era original, a national treasure, now held in the museum. – image © Michael Lambe

Following the path around to the rear of the Phoenix Hall brings you to the museum, which holds original artifacts from the temple and a wonderful recreation of the Phoenix’s Hall’s interior decoration as it would have appeared in Yorimichi’s day. The original is now much faded, but the recreation depicts in rich vibrant colors dancing celestial beings, child musicians, and birds bearing flowers, all in a heavenly whirl.

The grave of Minamoto-no-Yorimasa – image © Michael Lambe

Further along behind the museum and Phoenix Hall are some sub-temples. In the grounds of one, Saisho-in, you can find the grave of Minamoto-no-Yorimasa (1106–1180). A celebrated Heian era poet, Yorimasa became caught up in strife between the Minamoto and Taira clans. In the battle of Uji in 1180, Yorimasa and 300 warriors attempted to defend Byodo-in against a Taira force of 28,000. When the Minamoto defences fell, Yorimasa composed his final poem and committed ritual suicide.

from this old tree
buried in obscurity
no more blooms,
and fruitlessly
my life ends in sorrow

Inside the Phoenix Hall

Visitors waiting to enter the Phoenix Hall – image © Michael Lambe

To enter the Phoenix Hall, you need to buy a second ticket for 300 yen from a booth on the north side of the grounds. Visits are timed every 20 minutes, so you should return to the entry point five minutes before the time printed on your ticket. A guide will then lead your group into the hall and give a talk about the building and the Amida Buddha statue. You cannot take photographs in the interior, the talk is completely in Japanese, and you may feel a little cramped standing in a narrow space with all the other tourists. For these reasons you might wonder if it is worth paying for that extra ticket. I would say it is, simply to view the statue and the interior, both of which are spectacular. The statue though covered in gold foil, is made from wood. This was carved by Jocho Busshi, a Heian era sculptor, whose special technique was to create a single figure from multiple blocks of joined wood. You cannot see the joints. The shining statue soars above you and behind it on the white plaster walls fly heavenly beings playing an array of musical instruments. Even after a thousand years it really is quite breathtaking.

The grounds of Byodo-in Temple are open throughout the year between 8:30 a.m. and 17:30 p.m. For further details and to read more about the history, art and culture of this wonderful location please visit the official Byodo-in website.

Lunch at Aiso

Riverside restaurant Aiso viewed from Kisen-bashi Bridge – image © Michael Lambe

Aiso is an inn and restaurant not far from Byodo-in on Ajirogi-no-michi Street. The restaurant part of the establishment is housed in what looks like a ramshackle old wooden hut on the banks of the Uji-gawa River. Once you step up into it though, it is remarkably comfortable. Seated at low tables on tatami matting, you can enjoy a wonderful view of boats lazily cruising the river, and beyond that the pagoda of To-no-shima Island.

The view from Aiso restaurant – image © Michael Lambe

The staff here are super friendly and the food is really good. Among the many options on the menu, I particularly recommend the “unagi teishoku” or set meal with eel. Succulent eel broiled in soy sauce and sansho peppers is a specialty of the shop. The light and crispy tempura set meal is also a good choice.

The eel set meal will set you back 2,500 yen – image © Michael Lambe
The tempura set meal costs 2,300 yen. Both set meals come with rice and noodles – image © Michael Lambe

This is a popular restaurant, so it might be wise to have a Japanese speaker book it for you in advance. Check Aiso’s Japanese website for details. Aiso’s phone number is 0774-22-3001

To-no-shima Island

The Kisen-bashi Bridge and To-no-shima’s stone pagoda – image © Michael Lambe

Leaving the Aiso restaurant cross the Kisen-bashi Bridge to To-no-shima Island. To the east of the bridge is a 13-tiered stone pagoda, first built in 1286 as part of prayer of compassion for animals. Somewhat paradoxically to the west of the bridge and directly opposite the Aiso restaurant you will find a cage filled with cormorants.

Feeding time for an Uji cormorant – image © Michael Lambe

These large birds are kept for “Ukai”, a traditional fishing method, in which the cormorants dive for fish and then cough them up again for the benefit of their masters. You can view this early evening spectacle from mid-June to late September either from the river bank or closer from a hired boat. For details check the Japanese tourist website for Uji city, or telephone Uji City Tourist Association at 0774-23-3334

Asagiri-bashi Bridge & the Ukifune Statue

The statue of Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya afloat on the Ujigawa River – image © Michael Lambe

From To-no-shima cross to the far side of the river via the Asagiri-bashi Bridge. Here you will find a memorial statue to the “Uji Chapters” of The Tale of Genji. The statue depicts the lovers Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya in a boat on the Uji-gawa River. The final ten chapters of The Tale of Genji take place long after Hikaru Genji himself has died, and depict the bitter love rivalries of his descendants. Many scenes take place in Uji, and the maiden Ukifune (whose name means “floating boat”) eventually throws herself into the Uji-gawa river to escape the competing attentions of Prince Niou-no-Miya and Genji’s son Kaoru.

Eshin-in Temple

Directly across from the Uji Chapters memorial is the path that leads up to Eshin-in, named after the priest Eshin Sozu also known as Genshin, (942-1017), a great Buddhist scholar and the model for the Yokawa character in the Tale of Genji. In the book, Ukifune fails in her attempted suicide and washed up on the banks of the river she is discovered by monks. The priest Yokawa nurses her back to health and encourages her to find peace by abandoning the world and retreating to a nunnery.

The entrance to Eshin-in – image © Michael Lambe

This is a small temple, and there is not so much to see here, but it does have an exuberant hydrangea garden with many varieties of the flower coming into bloom in June.

The hydrangeas of Eshin-in help to brighten up the Japanese rainy season – image © Michael Lambe

Eshin-in is open from 6:00 am to 17:00 pm.

Kosho-ji Temple

The approach to Kosho-ji Temple is called Kotozaka or “harp hill” because of the musicality of a nearby stream – image © Michael Lambe

From Eshin-in, follow the signs west along the river for Kosho-ji, the next stop on our tour. Leave the river path, and enter the approach to the temple. Lined with trees it is a lush green tunnel in the spring, and a riot of colorful maple leaves in the fall. At the end of the approach enter through the Chinese style gate and view the gardens. The well-pruned bushes are pink azaleas which come into bloom in May.

Kosho-ji’s Chinese style gate – image © Michael Lambe

To enter the building, go through the entrance to the left of the gateway. You will have to ring for a monk to pay your 300 yen entry fee. Inside you can explore a warren of wooden passageways which open up suddenly onto hidden gardens.

The gardens of Kosho-ji – image © Michael Lambe

Kosho-ji is a Soto Zen temple, originally founded in Fukakusa by the priest Dogen in 1233. Over time the original temple fell into ruin however, and so was re-established here in Uji in the year 1649. The current buildings incorporate timber brought from the dismantled Fushimi Castle and it is said that there are blood stains on the ceiling of the main sanctuary that date from the Castle’s siege. Alas the dim sanctuary lighting makes it impossible to tell if those rumors are true.

Kosho-ji is open from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm daily, but closed during the New Year holidays.

Uji-jinja Shrine & Ujigami-jinja Shrine

Entrance to Uji-jinja – image © Michael Lambe

Head back towards Eshin-in and just beyond it is the entrance to Uji-jinja Shrine. Further up the hill beyond that is Ujigami-jinja Shrine, which because of its venerable age is listed as a World Heritage Site. This is actually the guardian shrine for the Byodo-in, which is Uji’s other World Heritage Site. It is far less flashy than its Buddhist neighbor though, and seems to blend into the wooded hill. This simple Shinto architecture expresses a deep reverence for nature.

The lower Uji-jinja Shrine – image © Michael Lambe

Up until the latter part of the 19th century the lower and upper shrines were considered to be part of one shrine complex, but they were divided in 1868. The original shrine complex was said have been built on the site of the villa of a royal prince: Uji-no-Wakairatsuko, and therein lies a tale or two.

Entrance to Ujigami-jinja – image © Michael Lambe

The story goes that Emperor Ojin (c. 300), chose his younger son, Uji-no-Wakairatsuko, as his successor, but when the emperor died, the young prince refused the throne. He felt he wasn’t worthy and that his elder brother was better suited to the job. However, the elder brother refused the throne too, as he did not want to go against his father’s wishes. Three years of stubborn self-effacement continued before Prince Wakairatsuko finally put an end to the dispute by throwing himself in the Uji-gawa River and his brother became Emperor Nintoku. Now the two brothers and their father are all enshrined as kami, or gods, in the upper shrine of Ujigami-jinja.

Before praying at a Shinto shrine you should always wash your hands. This hand washing fountain is in the shape of a mystic rabbit! – image © Michael Lambe

As you walk through the lower and upper shrines you may notice a repeated rabbit motif. When you wash your hands in the lower shrine, the fountain is in the shape of a rabbit. In the upper shrine there are many amulets and charms decorated with rabbit designs. Naturally there is a legend behind this too. The story goes that Prince Wakairatsuko lost his way in the mountains but a rabbit showed him the way back to Uji. The rabbit would hop along a little way and then look back at the prince as if to say, “Follow me”, before hopping on a little further. This “mikaeri usagi” or “looking back rabbit” is a guardian spirit of the shrine and if we pray to it, it is said to show us the right way to live our lives. Apparently, this is why Uji was once written with the Chinese characters for “Rabbit Road”.

Lucky ceramic rabbits on sale in Ujigami-jinja Shrine – image © Michael Lambe

In Ujigami-jinja, the upper shrine, are some ancient buildings with World Heritage status. Usually Shinto shrine buildings are renewed and rebuilt on a regular basis, but for some reason these were not. At the rear of the shrine, the Honden, or main hall, dates back a thousand years to the Heian period and consists of three separate buildings covered by a single cypress bark roof. This is the oldest Shinto building of its kind in Japan.

The Honden of Ujigami-jinja – image © Michael Lambe

Before the Honden is the Haiden, or worship hall, which dates back to 1215. The Honden was built for the gods, but the Haiden was for human use, and so was built in a more open, airy, residential style. This again is the oldest Shinto worship hall in Japan.

The Haiden of Ujigami-jinja – image © Michael Lambe

Look out also for the Kiriharasui well which has been known for the purity of its water since ancient times.

The Kiriharasui well was one of the “Seven Famous Springs of Uji”. Now only this spring remains – image © Michael Lambe

Uji-jinja and Ujigami-jinja are both open from 9:00 am – 16:30 pm.

The Tale of Genji Museum

Entry to the Tale of Genji Museum – image © Michael Lambe

After leaving Ujigami-jinja, continue to follow the path up the slope as it curves up toward the Tale of Genji Museum. Whether or not you are familiar with Murasaki Shikibu’s classic novel, this is an excellent location in which to immerse yourself in the world of Heian court literature.

The models and their costumes give a real sense of how people lived in Heian times – image © Michael Lambe

Various scenes from the novel are on display, as well as historical reproductions, models and dioramas. The highlight for me was the film shown in the movie room, a highly stylized retelling of the “Uji Chapters” incorporating real scenery and traditional Japanese puppetry.

Photography is allowed in most of the rooms in the museum with the notable exception of the Movie Room and The Special Exhibition Room – image © Michael Lambe

An English audio device is available at reception which will prove invaluable as you find your way around and absolutely essential for the movie room. There are different audio channels for different sections of the museum. When you receive the device be sure to take a note of which channel works in which room and save yourself a lot of confusion.

The Tale of Genji Museum is open from 9:00 am – 17:00 pm (no entry after 16:30pm). Entry costs 500 yen.

Hashi-dera Hojo-in Temple

The road-side entrance to Hashi-dera – image © Michael Lambe

If we walk back down to the river-side and then follow the course of the river west, back towards the Keihan Uji Station, we will come to Hashi-dera Temple. This is a guardian temple for Uji-bashi Bridge and so its common name, Hashi-dera, means “Bridge Temple”. The temple’s official name though is Hojo-in, “release life” temple, which comes from a special Buddhist ceremony of compassion in 1264 when birds were freed from their cages. Even today this temple continues its tradition of compassion for animals. Amongst the Buddhist statuary in the grounds is a small memorial for departed pets on which someone has left cans of pet food and chewy toys.

Hashi-dera’s memorial stone for pets – image © Michael Lambe

Also on the temple grounds is a broken stone monument, called Uji-bashi Danpi, which commemorates the building of Uji-bashi Bridge in 646. This is the oldest stone inscription in Japan and the earliest example of Japanese calligraphy. Unfortunately, this national treasure is only on view during strictly limited periods: March 1st – May 31st and September 1st – November 30th.

The building which houses the Uji-bashi Danpi was sadly closed when I visited – image © Michael Lambe

Hashi-dera is open from 9:00 am – 16:00 pm from November through March and till 17:00 pm from April through October.

Tsuen-chaya Tea Shop

Nestled into a corner by Uji-bashi Bridge and across from Keihan Uji Station is the Tsuen-chaya tea shop, which just happens to be the oldest tea shop in Japan. It’s great spot for a break. Here you can get tea, desserts or a simple tea-flavored ice cream while you plan your next move.

Tsuen-chaya is famous for its desserts – image © Michael Lambe

Tsuen-chaya is open from 9:30 am – 17:30 pm. Tel: 0774-21-2243

At this point no one would blame you if you were to jump on the train at Keihan Uji Station and head on back to Kyoto. However, if you still have the energy there are two more temples you could visit…

Mimuroto-ji Temple

Mimuroto-ji Temple is a 15-minute walk from Mimurodo Station (one stop north of Uji on the Keihan line). You can also take the number 43 bus from the Keihan Uji station directly to the temple. If you come here at the right time of year it is absolutely worth incorporating this incredible temple into your tour.

20,000 azaleas bloom throughout May – image © Michael Lambe

Also known as Hana-dera, or “Flower Temple”, Mimuroto-ji has thousands of azalea, rhododendron and hydrangea bushes planted throughout its grounds.

A thousand rhododendrons bloom in April and May – image © Michael Lambe
Ten thousand hydrangeas put on their best show throughout the month of June – image © Michael Lambe

Mimuroto-ji is open from 8:30 am – 16:30 pm. Entry is 500 yen.
Check the Japanese website for details.

Mampuku-ji Temple

Two stops north of Keihan Uji Station is Obaku. Get off here for Mampuku-ji Temple, also known as Obaku-san.

Mampuku-ji Temple – image © Michael Lambe

This temple was founded in 1661 by the Chinese monk Ingen, and is interesting because it represents the most recent form of Zen Buddhism to be imported from China. The temple grounds are extensive, and the architecture retains a distinctive Chinese feel.

A pot-bellied Buddha. Mampuku-ji basically means “Full Tummy Temple – image © Michael Lambe

Mampuku-ji is famous for its Shojin Ryori, or Zen vegetarian cuisine, but if you want to book a meal here you will have to book it in advance. A restaurant outside the temple also serves traditional vegetarian fare. Regardless of whether or not you decide to eat here, you are sure to be satisfied by the profound sense of peace that hangs in the air. This is actually one of my favorite temples in Kyoto.

Mampuku-ji Temple – image © Michael Lambe

Mampuku-ji is open from 9:00 am – 17:00 pm (no entry after 16:30) and the entry fee is 500 yen.

About Michael Lambe
Michael Lambe is the author of the Deep Kyoto blog and chief editor of the Deep Kyoto: Walks anthology. Text and original photographs are all by Michael Lambe.

Byōdō-in, the Phoenix Hall, Uji

Uji (宇治) is a small city located between Kyoto and Nara, two of Japan’s most famous historical and cultural centers. Its proximity to these two former capitals resulted in Uji’s early development as a cultural center in its own right. The two main places (Byōdō-in Temple and Ujigami Shrine) are both Unesco World Heritage sites and both attract a lot of visitors.

Byōdō-in Temple (平等院, Byōdō-in) is a perfect example of Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture. Together with its garden, the temple represents the Pure Land Paradise. The Phoenix Hall literally represents the mythical Chinese Phoenix (Ho-o) descending to earth, with the central hall being the body of the bird, the lateral corridors its wings and the tail represented by the rear corridor. Above the central hall on the roof is a pair of male and female bronze phoenix. The hall is now featured on the back of the Japanese ten yen coin.

The best way to capture its beauty is probably to try to get its reflection in the pond in front of it on a clear and calm day. Of course, a CPL filter may come in handy.

Uji Byodoin Temple

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Watch the video: Makett-Byodoin Phoenix Hall-Japan (December 2021).