The Best Of Byōdō-in (平等院), Uji, Japan
Just south of Kyoto you’ll find the city of Uji. It is a fairly easy day trip from Nara, Kyoto and even Osaka. Just don’t do what I did and decide to walk there and back from Osaka, it’s a four trek each way. Due to its close proximity of two major cities during the Heian Period (794 to 1192), Uji is home to impressive temples and monuments. In fact, one of those, the Ujigami Shrine is known as the oldest extant shrine in Japan. Alongside bricks and mortar, Uji is also famous for it’s green tea. So, if you are looking to taste traditional green tea, then you’re tastebuds will tingle in Uji. Today though, we’re going to take a stroll around the beautiful Byōdō-in. Temple.
This striking temple was constructed in 998 and is a perfect example of Jodo-Buddhist architecture. Originally designed as a rural holiday-home for a powerful politician, Fujiwara no Michinaga. You can still feel the sense of serene tranquility that washes over the temple from the still crystal-clear water nearby.
Fujiwara no Michinaga was slightly outdone by his son who ordered the creation of the impressive Phoenix Hall as part of the compound, and turned the residence into an official Temple. The Phoenix Hall is so grand that it stands as a cultural and historical landmark. It even features on the back of the ten yen coin.
Although I didn’t venture inside, it was too crowded for my liking, you can take a guided tour. The tour lasts for twenty minutes and will cost an additional 300yen, ontop of the 600yen general entrance fee.
Interestingly, this temple features in any ‘off-the-beaten-track’ listings. I’ve no idea why, because although it takes a train ride to get there it was most definitely busy. From older people sitting under the beautiful tree vines, to groups of school children and even lovers kissing by the peace bell there was enough people to call it a popular attraction.
So, what else is nearby?
Well, as I mentioned, Uji is also known for its Green Tea. And, you know my motto “it would be rude not to try it” so as you walk up the main street support the local economy and purchase something from the number of sellers lining the streets. From green tea, to green tea mochi and green tea ice cream; everything is green tea flavored!
There is a small UNESCO World Heritage Site shrine, Ujigami-Jinja Shrine.
You could also take a stroll across the Uji-bashi Bridge which features in many cultural pieces of works. It is one of three most ancient bridges in Japan. I went to this sacred bridge but by this point my phone had dies so apologies for the generic photo from Wikimedia Commons.
How to get to Uji (宇治市) Station
Option 1 (with JR Pass): Take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station.
Option 2 (without JR Pass): Take the Keihan Main Line from Sanjo Station, or Gion Shijo Station. Change at Chushojima Station to the Keihan Uji Line.
Option 1 (with JR Pass): From Nara Station take the JR Nara Line to Kyoto.
Option 2 (without JR Pass): From Kinetsu Nara Station take the Kintetsu Kyoto Line.
Option 1 (with JR Pass): From either Osaka Station or Shin-Osaka Station take the JR Kyoto Line. Change at Kyoto to JR Nara Line.
Option 2 (without JR Pass): Take the Keihan Main Line from Yodoyabashi or Kyobashi Station in Osaka. Change at Chushojima Station to the Keihan Uji Line.