Byodoin Temple: Exploring an Icon of Japanese Buddhism

Nestled in the charming town of Uji, just a short train ride away from Kyoto, lies a temple of unparalleled beauty and historical significance – Byodoin. With its striking architecture and serene gardens, Byodoin is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese culture and history. In fact, Byodoin is so iconic that it even appears on the back of the 10-yen coin. But what is it about this temple that makes it so special? Byodoin’s rich history? It’s stunning architecture? The wealth of cultural significance? Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or a curious first-timer, Byodoin is a destination that should not be missed.

The History of Byodoin

Byodoin temple was first built in 998 by Fujiwara no Michinaga, a powerful politician of the Heian period, as a countryside retreat for his family. The temple’s name “Byodoin” means “equal footing hall,” which reflects the Buddhist concept of attaining enlightenment and being on equal footing with the Buddha.

Over the centuries, Byodoin underwent many changes and renovations. In the 11th century, it was converted into a temple for the Jodo-shu sect of Buddhism. During this time, the temple’s main hall, the Phoenix Hall (Hou-ou-dou), was constructed. The Phoenix Hall is one of the finest examples of Japanese Buddhist architecture, with its symmetrical design and intricate details.

Throughout its history, Byodoin has been associated with many important historical figures and events. For example, during the Edo period, the temple served as a mint for producing coins. Byodoin also played a key role in establishing Japan’s first diplomatic relations with the United States in the 19th century.

Today, Byodoin remains a significant cultural and historical landmark in Japan, attracting visitors from all over the world who come to marvel at its beauty and learn about its fascinating past.


The architecture of Byodoin temple is a masterful blend of Japanese and Chinese influences, reflecting the cultural exchange between these two countries during the Heian period. The Phoenix Hall is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Japanese Buddhist architecture. The hall features a symmetrical design with a central pavilion flanked by two wings, each with a gracefully curved roof. Intricate wooden carvings of mythical beasts, birds, and flowers, all painted in vibrant colours, adorn the roofs.

Inside the Phoenix Hall, you can see the centrepiece of the temple – a statue of the Amida Buddha. The statue is surrounded by 52 smaller Buddha statues, each representing one of the 52 stages on the path to enlightenment.

In addition to the Phoenix Hall, Byodoin features several other buildings of architectural significance, including the West and East Phoenix Halls, the Renge-dou (Lotus Hall), and the Kannon Hall. Each of these buildings showcases a unique style and design, with intricate details and beautiful decorations.

The architectural elements of Byodoin are not only beautiful but also hold important cultural and religious significance. For example, the phoenix, which appears prominently in the design of the Phoenix Hall, represents the idea of rebirth and immortality in Buddhist philosophy.

Gardens of Byodoin

In addition to its stunning architecture, Byodoin temple is also famous for its beautiful gardens. The gardens feature a variety of plants, including cherry trees, maples, and azaleas, arranged in a meticulously designed landscape that reflects the beauty of nature in every season.

The main garden of Byodoin is the Jodo garden, which is located in front of the Phoenix Hall. The Jodo garden represents the Buddhist Pure Land, a paradise where the Amida Buddha resides. The garden features a large pond surrounded by carefully pruned trees and shrubs. You can cross the pond on a small bridge and enjoy the view of the Phoenix Hall from different angles.

Visiting Byodoin temple

Byodoin temple is located in Uji city, which is about 20 kilometres south of Kyoto city. The temple is easily accessible by public transportation from both Kyoto and Nara.

To get to Byodoin temple from Kyoto Station, take the JR Nara Line to Uji Station, which takes about 20 minutes. From Uji Station, the temple is a 10-minute walk or a short bus ride on the Uji City Bus. You can also take the Keihan Line from Gion-Shijo Station to Uji Station, which takes about 30 minutes.

From Nara Station, take the JR Nara Line to Kyoto Station and transfer to the JR Nara Line to Uji Station. The journey takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Admission to Byodoin temple costs 600 yen for adults and 400 yen for children. The temple is open from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM from March to November, and from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM from December to February.

When visiting the temple, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as there is a fair amount of walking and stairs involved. You can also rent an audio guide to learn more about the temple’s history and significance.

Thanks for reading! Want to do some more exploring? Have a look at the travel map:

Travelers’ Map is loading…
If you see this after your page is loaded completely, leafletJS files are missing.

Key: Sightseeing (blue), Nature (green), Food (purple), Art/Festivals/Culture/Religion (orange), General Information (black), Quora question (red)

Interested in seeing our social media? Follow us on Instagram for travel photos!

Leave a Reply