Byodo-in is a famous Buddhist temple in Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture.
Byodo-in is a Buddhist temple in modern-day Uji City to the south of Kyoto City. It was founded in 1052 by converting a villa of the then Regent Fujiwara no Yorimichi, who was the most powerful political figure of the time.
Unlike ordinary temples, this temple itself doesn’t belong to any particular Buddhist sect, and this is rare for a temple of this class, though it is co-managed by a Tendai Buddhist temple and a Jodo Buddhist temple, just like renowned Zenko-ji in Nagano Prefecture is administered.
What’s famous here is Hoodo, or the phoenix hall, the building which stands here for more than some 950 years since it was erected in 1053, and its image is even depicted on the 10 yen coin. Kyoto, though it pride itself as the city of history and tradition, had also been plagued with war like wars in the Nanbokucho period, the Onin War, wars in the Sengoku period, to name a few.
Therefore, most of the buildings in central Kyoto are reconstructed ones after the late 16th century. Though Uji is a suburban area and was not severely destroyed like Kyoto proper, there are few buildings which are almost a thousand years old.
The exterior of Hoodo, together with the beautiful garden in front of it, is surely impressive, but its interior is worth a look, too. The statue of Amida Buddha, to which this building is dedicated, is placed inside with many valuable sculptures.
Byodo-in used to have many more buildings a millennium ago, but alas, most of them are gone now, and except for Hoodo, only Kannondo from the Kamakura period remains.
Nonetheless, the temple is registered as part of UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto,” and Hoodo is designated as a National Treasure.
Where to eat around Byodo-in
What we recommend around Byodo-in is Mitsuboshien Kanbayashisannyu Honten. Founded about five centuries ago, this store sells Ujicha (a famous brand of green tea harvested around Uji), and is known for offering experience of making maccha, but you can also enjoy Ujicha with sweets here.
If you want to have a heavier meal, then we would like to commend an Italian restaurant called TREVERDI. Dishes popular at this restaurant are pasta, plate lunches and hearty meat dishes.
Where to stay around Byodo-in
Our recommendation for an accommodation facility around Byodo-in is Ujigawa Ryokan. The advantages of this ryokan are its excellent meals and the accessibility to Byodo-in.
It’s less than 500 meters (1640 feet) from Byodo-in, and offers delicious washoku dishes such as tempura and soba. It’s a small ryokan, and room rates are from 6,000yen to 13,000yen.
Aiso is another neat ryokan-style inn in the area. It features splendid meals like kamo-nabe (duck stew), jidori-nabe (stew made from free-range domestic chicken), and kaiseki (a multi-course meal associated with tea ceremony), and of these dishes, kamo-nabe is extremely popular.
Accommodation fees ranges from 5,000yen to 13,000yen, which is almost the same with Ujigawa Ryokan, so you may as well decide which to stay by the kind of cuisine they provide.
Hoodo, which is nearly a thousand years old, is the symbol of Byodo-in and has a stately appearance stemming from the age.
It’s a miracle this edifice has been able to survive to this day, and it’s no wonder it’s registered as a World Heritage site. Thus, visiting Byodo-in is highly recommended.