Uji, Japan – Byodo-in Temple

Day Trip to Uji, Kyoto Prefecture

The following day after my trip to NaraI set out early in the morning with a new friend from my hostel. Jenni had been staying at my hostel in Kyoto for a reunion with friends whom she met at Doshisha University while on exchange. Having spent a year living in and exploring the old capital city and neighboring towns, she is like a Kyoto Expert! Ignoring how terrible my Japanese is, I’m really shit at finding my way around using train lines and likely to spend half the day delayed if not totally lost. So it goes without saying I was super lucky to tag along on her trip to Uji April 21st, 2016. 

So what is there to see in Uji? If you guessed, you’d probably be right: Temples, Shrines and Green Tea! I’ll hit those topics in a moment, but first let me introduce “The Tale of Genji“: Arguably the first novel ever written. Authored by a noblewoman, Murasaki Shibiku, in the 11th century. The final chapters take place in Uji City. So if you love historic literature, you’ll want to pick up a translated copy and bring it along for a picnic by  the riverside at Furitsu Uji Park.

Getting to Uji

The town of Uji lies outside of Kyoto, between Nara City, within an easy commute by train from Osaka. So a day trip is pretty easy as the journey from Kyoto Station to Uji Station is only 30-40 minutes  using the JR Nara Line. Or roughly 1h 20 minutes from Osaka Station using Kyoto Station as transfer stop. Check out Navitime Apps that make it really easy to travel around Japan. Also Mapsme or google maps.

The Byodo-in Temple (平等院)

The temple compound cost 600 Yen to enter with an optional 300 Yen extra to enter the inside of the Phoenix (Amida) Hall; the only remaining original section of the temple. Jenni and I opted to skip the hall, party because we are cheap travelers but also because of the line which you can see below was backed up quite a bit even given the rain. The basic entry includes entry into the Byodo-in Temple Museum that houses all the historic treasures of the temple! Taking pictures inside the museum is discouraged, so out of respect for the temple we simply admired the beautiful works of art. The temple dates back to 998 when it was originally constructed as a villa before being converted to a Buddhist Temple, so the artwork is spectacular!

Byodo-in Temple

 The Temple itself is built like a Phoenix flying with outstretched wings and a long tail. If you look closely, see photo below, you can see two small Phoenix ornaments on the center roof facing the main hall that houses the great statue of Amida. The temple is of such cultural significance you can see it on the 10 Yen coin, and the 10,000 Yen note has the image of the Phoenix. I did note have a 10,000 yen bill on me at the time haha. The compound is quite large and includes an extensive “Pure Land Garden” which  is quite magnificent stroll through, although you have to stay on the main paths (others are roped off) which is customary of most temples in Japan. 

 After the museum, you can find the gift shop. I’m not a huge fan of gift shops, however I did take the opportunity to buy my first ‘Omamori (Guide) and a postcard as a souvenir! Yes, it rained the entire day Jenni and I were in Uji. It’s important to remind yourself that not everyday is picture perfect; the rain didn’t stop or the crowds, but we had fun anyway.  Plus green tea is extra nice stepping in from the rain! One weird thing to mention is that there is a replica of the Byodo-in Temple in Hawaii, so if you are researching it, don’t get them confused!

Resources on the Byodo-in Temple

Tomorrow, I will continue working on page two which will cover Matcha, Green Tea and some of the smaller shrines you’ll find on your stroll along the riverside.

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