This Kyoto temple is—literally—on the money!
Byodoin, in Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture, is often referred to as the most beautiful building in Japan. It is also the country's most viewed temple because its image is depicted on the reverse of the ¥10 coin.
Its Phoenix Hall was selected for the bronze currency in 1951, the year it was designated a National Treasure. Almost a half century later, in 2004, the temple got further recognition when an image of its phoenix statue was chosen for the reverse of the ¥10,000 banknote.
The temple is therefore one of Japan's most recognised and beloved structures, making it a must-visit spot on any trip to Kyoto.
Byodoin was built in 998 as a rural villa of a high-ranking courtier before being turned into a Buddhist temple in 1052. The following year saw the construction of Phoenix Hall, which is one of the only remaining such structures from that time. It is therefore considered one of the most important cultural assets in the country.
From the Kamakura period (1185–1333), the temple was gradually expanded into the massive complex that can be seen today. The Meiji and Showa periods (1868–1989) brought large scale renovations and efforts to preserve the temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.
The temple's main building is constructed on an island in a large lotus pond, offering stunning reflections of the iconic architecture.
Though its official name is Amida-do Hall, as it houses a 2.4 metre tall statue of Amida Buddha, it gained the moniker Phoenix Hall at the turn of the 17th century. This was due to the adjoining buildings flanking it, which liken the structure to a phoenix spreading its wings. There are also phoenix statutes at opposite ends of the roof.
The phoenix is displayed prominently as it is considered by Buddhists as Buddha's protector, while also being associated with rebirth and renewal.
Built partially underground so as to not impact the landscape, Hoshokan Museum houses art and replicas of some of the paintings and sculptures inside the temple. These replicas include national treasures such as the Temple Bell, the 26 statues of the Praying Bodhisattva on Clouds and the original 1,000-year-old pair of phoenix statutes from the rooftop of Phoenix Hall.
Byodoin Temple Garden is the oldest Jodo garden in Japan. This style of Buddhist temple garden integrated an Amida hall and a pond in front of it to create a Buddhist Pure Land of paradise. The focus was on developing a natural layout, rather than a curated garden, by encompassing the whole of the temple grounds.
Completed in the Heian period (974–1185), Byodoin Temple Garden is designated a Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. The space evokes a sense of calm and oneness with nature.
Tea Room Toka
Uji, where Byodoin Temple is located, is the home of Japanese tea. Since the first tea seeds from China were planted here, the city has been renowned for high-grade matcha and sencha, making it synonymous with the tea ceremony.
Tea Room Toka, on the temple grounds, uses only tea leaves harvested in Uji or its neighbouring areas, offering an authentic Uji green tea experience. Choose from a selection of powdered or leaf options, prepared hot or cold by certified Japanese tea instructors.
Find out more
Byodoin Temple Garden is open daily from 8:30 am, with admission to the Phoenix Hall (additional charge) from 9:30 am. For more details, visit the Byodoin website.