The ¥10 temple.
If you feel like you’ve seen this temple somewhere before, you probably have – its ornate Phoenix Hall is featured on the back of the ¥10 coin. Byodoin Temple lies in the peaceful town of Uji, known for its immaculate matcha, in the ancient Kyoto Prefecture. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s one of Japan’s most recognizable temples.
This intricate wooden building has managed to survive intact since its construction in 1053.
Byodoin was originally a villa for the politician Fujiwara no Michinaga before being rebuilt as a temple in 1052 by his son, Fujiwara no Yorimichi. The temple gardens are designed in the Jodo style, using the surrounding landscape as “borrowed scenery.” Together, the temple and its gardens are intended to represent the Buddhist Pure Land or paradise. If that’s not enough to make you drop everything and go this minute; read on.
Officially called Amidado Hall, Phoenix Hall is the jewel in Byodoin’s crown. It earned its nickname thanks to the two phoenix statues on its roof, and the fact that its elegant shape resembles a bird spreading its wings.
This intricate wooden building has managed to survive intact since its construction in 1053, making it one of the rare surviving structures from the Heian Period. Seated on an island in the middle of a large pond, it’s this section of Byodoin Temple that’s featured on the ¥10 coin.
For the full story, take a short guided tour of the Phoenix Hall, which is available every 20 minutes. The tour is conducted in Japanese only, but English-language brochures are available.
Located toward the back of the temple grounds is the Hoshokan Museum. This deceptively large treasure house was rebuilt in 2001, with most of the construction concealed underground so as not to spoil the temple scenery. Hoshokan contains an impressive number of exhibits, many of which are designated as national treasures or important cultural properties. These include a number of Buddhist statues, a temple bell and many excavated items dating back to the Heian period.
Toka tea salon
In keeping with Uji’s reputation for producing some of the best green tea in Japan, next to the museum you’ll find the Toka tea salon. This specialty tea house only serves matcha (powdered green tea), gyokuro (high quality green tea) and sencha (ordinary green tea) grown locally in Uji. Prices range from ¥550 to ¥850, and each order of tea comes with Byodoin Temple’s original dry sweets. 🍡🍵