Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nara
Population
1,442,862

Yakushi-ji & Shinyakushi-ji Temples

Medicine and Mystery.

While there are plenty of temples that have fascinating stories behind them, the story behind Yakushi-ji remains one of the most interesting. According to local folklore, when the consort of Emperor Shomu became ill, the Nara prefecture temple was ordered to be built in order to aid her speedy recovery.

To this end, a medicine Buddha — known as Yakushi-sanzon — was installed in Yakushi-ji as this entity is known for curing life-threatening illnesses. This Buddha is so old that it is one of the very first statues to be imported from China and is dated to the late 8th century.

Photo by: Matthew Coslett The temple is famous for its architectural attractions.

Later, a sister temple was created called Shinyakushi-ji, which also contained a medicine Buddha as well as some Shinsho-ritsuzo statues which are believed to be the oldest examples of this type of statue remaining in Japan.

While the history is the most interesting aspect of these temples, recently they have become just as famous for their architectural attractions. The highlight is undoubtedly the pagoda at Yakushi-ji as the ancient building was built using an optical illusion to make it appear to have many more stories than it does. By using the eaves in creative ways, the illusion is created that the pagoda has six stories instead of the three that it actually has.

Photo by: Matthew Coslett Autumn scenery.

Strangely for a temple that is under the protection of a Buddha, the area has seen its fair share of misfortune. Shinyakushi-ji (Map), for example, was virtually destroyed by lightning and a lot of its buildings are recreations. Bizarrely, not all these threats were physical as the bell in the temple is covered in scratches which, according to local legend, were supposedly a left-over from an attack by an enraged demon.

Photo by: Matthew Coslett Sake, anyone?

With these stories of romantic love, ancient statues, acts of god and horrific monsters, the Yakushi-ji temples are rare examples of buildings where the stories and lore are almost as interesting as the buildings themselves. While the temples are a little outside the main area of Osaka, visitors to Koriyama castle will find them a worthwhile side trip since they are in the same neighborhood.

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Things To Know

Fees and hours

Shinyakushiji requires a ¥600 entrance fee. Yakushiji is more expensive at ¥1,100 (although this price can vary). Open: Daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

How To Get There

Address

375 Nishinokyōchō, Nara-shi, Nara-ken 630-8042, Japan

By train

For Shinyakushi-ji, it is a 30-minute walk from JR or Kintetsu Nara stations. The area is also easily accessed by taking the loop bus from either station and getting off at the Wariishicho (破石町) stop.

For Yakushi-ji, it is a short walk from Nishinokyo station on the Kintetsu Kashihara line.

Where To Stay

Business Hotel Century
  • Amagatsujinakamachi 10-21 Nara-Shi, Nara 630-8024
  • 7.2/10
  • 1.3 km
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AURA Resort Nara (Adult Only)
  • Hachijo 5-495-1 Nara-Shi, Nara 630-8145
  • 8.4/10
  • 1.4 km
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Nara Park Hotel
  • Horai 4-18-1 Nara-Shi, Nara 631-0845
  • 7.8/10
  • 1.9 km
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Hotel Asyl Nara Annex
  • Sijyooji 1-4-45 Nara-Shi, Nara 630-8014
  • 6.9/10
  • 2.0 km
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