One of Uji’s iconic sights is the famous Hou-ou-do Hall, also known as Amida Hall or Phoenix Hall, located at Byodoin Temple. This building is considered one of the most well-known examples of Buddhist architecture in japan and is the only original structure of the Byodoin Temple complex that remains today. The temple can be easily accessed by rail from Kyoto or Nara, making it a popular destination for tourists.
Byodoin Temple was originally a villa belonging to the Fujiwara clan, a powerful family of regents. In 1052, it was converted into a Buddhist temple and has been operating as such ever since. The construction of Amida Hall, the iconic building of the temple, took place the following year and has stood the test of time.
The symbol of the phoenix holds great significance in Buddhist culture and is worshipped as Buddha’s protector. The shape of the Phoenix Hall at Byodoin Temple is designed to resemble the form of the bird, and two bronze phoenixes sit atop the roof, facing each other in pleasing symmetry. This symbolism adds to the cultural and historical significance of the temple.
Inside the hall, visitors can admire a seated cedar statue of the Amida Buddha, which is covered in gold leaf. The statue is accompanied by 52 praying bodhisattvas on clouds, creating a captivating and spiritual atmosphere. The Amida Buddha statue dates back to the 11th century and is believed to be the work of the renowned sculptor Jocho. To fully appreciate the colorful designs, paintings, and the seated Amida sculpture inside the hall, visitors can take a 15-minute tour. It is worth noting that the tours are conducted in Japanese only, but an English leaflet is available for non-Japanese speakers.
Adjacent to the temple is the Hoshokan Museum, which houses various treasures related to the temple. Here, visitors can see the original temple bell and phoenix roof ornaments, along with other artifacts that are no longer housed in the Phoenix Hall. The museum provides an opportunity to delve deeper into the history and cultural significance of Byodoin Temple.
To reach Byodoin Temple, visitors can take the Nara Line from Kyoto Station to Uji Station. The journey takes approximately 20 minutes by rapid train or 30 minutes by local train. From Uji Station, it is a pleasant 15-minute walk to the temple, allowing visitors to explore the charming surroundings of Uji along the way.
Uji itself is a picturesque city located between Kyoto and Nara, known for its historical and cultural attractions. Aside from Byodoin Temple, Uji is also famous for its green tea production. The city is home to several tea houses and tea gardens where visitors can experience traditional tea ceremonies and sample Uji’s renowned matcha tea.
Byodoin Temple and its iconic Phoenix Hall are not only a testament to the rich history and cultural heritage of Uji but also a symbol of Japan’s deep-rooted Buddhist traditions. The temple’s architectural beauty, treasured sculptures, and serene atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese history, art, and spirituality.
In conclusion, Byodoin Temple’s Hou-ou-do Hall, also known as Amida Hall or Phoenix Hall, is a significant and iconic sight in Uji, Japan. This Buddhist temple, originally a villa belonging to the Fujiwara clan, has been standing for centuries and houses a remarkable collection of sculptures and artifacts. The phoenix symbolism, architectural design, and historical significance of the temple make it a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Byodoin Temple is a true gem of Uji and a must-visit for anyone seeking to explore Japan’s rich cultural heritage.
Address And Maps Location:
Renge-116 Uji, Uji-shi, Kyoto-fu