Step into the Heian period when visiting the Byodoin temple in Uji

Byodoin Temple (平等院, Byōdōin) 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. Byodoin was initially built in 998 as a countryside retreat villa for the powerful politician Fujiwara no Michinaga, not as a temple.

Michinaga’s son turned Byodoin into a temple and ordered the construction of its most spectacular feature, the Phoenix Hall. Although the building was given another official name, almost immediately after its construction in 1053, it was nicknamed Hoodo (“Phoenix Hall”) because of its shape and the two phoenix statues on its roof. The hall is now featured on the back of the Japanese ten yen coin.

Future visitors to the Byodoin temple will get to see what visitors to the sanctuary a thousand years ago saw after reconstruction on the World Heritage site is completed next March 2014.

Temple officials said July 9 that the Phoenix Hall will be painted in the same colors used when it was first repaired in the 12th century. The hall was constructed in 1053 by Fujiwara no Yorimichi, an aristocrat during the Heian Period (794-1185).

“The hall will likely become one that shows what the image of the Pure Land heaven was like,” said Monsho Kamii, the temple’s head priest.

Reconstruction work on the Phoenix Hall began last year. The temple’s columns and roof tiles will be painted red-brown and black, and the replicas of the phoenix statues that will be attached to the roof will be gold plated.

The last time the Phoenix Hall underwent repairs was between 1950 and 1957. The tiles at the time were smoked to generate a silver-colored sheen, and only the top parts of the columns were painted red.

However, recent research discovered that during the very first repairs made in the 12th century, the entire columns were painted a reddish-brown color using a mixture of iron oxide and ocher.

Plans call for the Phoenix Hall to be opened to the public in April 2014.

How to get there:

The temple is just outside of Kyoto.

From Kyoto

Kyoto City and Uji are connected by frequent trains along the JR Nara Line. The one way trip takes about 20 minutes by rapid train or 30 minutes by local train. Both rapid and local trains cost 230 yen one way. The trip is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

The Keihan Line is useful for passengers departing Kyoto from around the Kamogawa River, e.g. the Gion area, as opposed to Kyoto Station. Take the Keihan Main Line to Chushojima Station, transfer to the Keihan Uji Line and alight at the terminal station, Keihan Uji Station. the one way trip takes about half an hour, costs around 300 yen and in not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

From Osaka

Osaka and Uji are connected by frequent trains along the Keihan Line. From Yodoyabashi or Kyobashi Stations in Osaka, the one way trip takes about 1 hour and costs about 400 yen. A transfer of trains is required at Chushojima Station to the Keihan Uji Line. Travel on the Keihan Line is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

Japan Rail Pass holders should take a rapid train along the JR Kyoto Line from Osaka to Kyoto and then transfer to the JR Nara Line from Kyoto to Uji. This option takes about the same amount of time.

Above fees and schedules are subject to change. For the current yen exchange rate, click here.

Categories: Daytrips, Must see, Things to do, Weekend trips | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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