Our Visit to Byōdō-in (平等院) Temple!
We visited Byōdō-in (平等院) on a beautiful autumn day – so warm that we didn’t even need our jackets. Byodo-in is located in Uji; a suburb of Kyoto surrounded by several important world heritage sites. Among them are Ujigami-jinya, a world heritage site, and Mimuroto-ji, with its beautiful garden and pagoda. Off the famous Uji bridge, one can walk for hours in the shopping arcade, stroll by the river, enjoy some local delicacies, and shoot post card pictures to send home. Uji is also the hometown for the famous historical romance novel, Genji-monogatari.
Since Byōdō-in is visited by many people at all times of the year, one must prepare their patience in order to take memorable pictures in front of the pond, and with the view of the sacred Byōdō-in Phoenix Hall.
From Wikipedia: History
Byōdō-in was built in 998 AD during the Heian period, Byōdō-in was originally a private residence (like most Japanese temples). It was converted into a temple by a member of the Fujiwara clan in 1052. The Phoenix Hall was added in 1053 to house the Amida Buddha image.
The Byōdō-in temple complex was once much larger, but most of the additional buildings burned down during the civil war in 1336. Originally the pond’s beach stretched up to the Uji River, with mountains on the opposite side of the river as a background. The entire scenic area encompassing the temple was a representation of the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) on earth.
Today, the Phoenix Hall is all that remains, and Byōdō-in is one of the few examples of Heian temple architecture left in Japan. Japan has commemorated the longevity and cultural significance of Byōdō-in by displaying its image on the 10 yen coin. The Phoenix Hall, the great statue of Amida inside it, and several other items at Byōdō-in are Japanese National Treasures.
It’s not only Japan that cherishes this temple. A full-sized replica of Byōdō-in was built in 1968 in the Valley of the Temples on O’ahu, Hawaii. In December 1994, UNESCO listed the building as a World Heritage Site.
What to See at Byōdō-in:
The most famous building in the Byōdō-in temple is the Phoenix Hall (Ho-oh-Do/Hoohdo) or Amida Hall, built with the sole purpose of housing the Amida Buddha image. It has three wings, creating an image of the mythical bird of China, the phoenix. The central hall is flanked by twin wing corridors on both sides, plus a “tail” corridor. The roof of the hall is surmounted by bronze phoenixes.
The central hall houses a revered statue of Amida Buddha, who is accompanied by 52 wooden statues of bodhisattvas placing musical instruments and dancing on clouds. Seated at the western edge of a pond, the golden Amida statue catches the first rays of the rising sun.
On the grounds is the Byōdō-in temple bell, one of the most famous bells in Japan. A National Treasure, it bears no inscriptions, but has reliefs of maidens and lions; it is thought to display Korean influences. The Byōdō-in grounds also contain a monument to Minamoto no Yorimasa (源 頼政 – 1106–1180), who took his own life here after being defeated by the rival Taira clan.
Finally, Byōdō-in boasts the most beautiful of Japan’s few remaining Pure Land Gardens, a garden type which was popular during the Heian Period. It was unearthed in 1997 as part of an archeological dig.