The rather small city of Uji, located between Kyoto and Nara, is famous for its green tea (check out more about Uji green tea here https://www.odigo.jp/articles/13663-japans-green-tea-capital), but it is also home to one Unesco World Heritage Historical Building that can be found virtually all over Japan. How can that be possible? Well, this particular building is embossed into the 10-Yen-coin: Uji's Phoenix Temple Byodo-in.
Built in 998, during the height of the Fujiwara clan's political power, Byodo-in was originally designed as a countryside villa and not as a temple. However, Michinage Fujiwara's son Yorimichi turned the building into a temple, which was completed in 1053. Due to its shape and the two phoenix statues on the roof, it was nicknamed Hoodo, "Phoenix Hall".
The wooden structure of the Phoenix Hall is one of very few who have remained original constructions form the Heian Period, having been left unscathed by several fires that destroyed the Byodo-in repeatedly. In the Phoenix Hall, a statue of the Amida Buddha, the principal Buddha in Pure Land Buddhism, who is surrounded by 52 worshipping Buddhas on clouds, can be visited. Short guided tours, in Japanese, start every 20 minutes and cost around 300 Yen.
Byodo-in also has a unique museum, the Hoshokan, which is located underground as to not distract from the Phoenix Hall and the surrounding temple grounds. Some of the temple's most precious artifacts, such as the temple bell sugata no byodoin.
The temple grounds are designed with the concept of the Land of Happiness, the place where a person is believed to go in the after-life according to Pure Land Buddhism. In this concept, Amida Buddha is in the middle of a palace style temple with a pond in front of it.
On the North side of the temple you can visit the Kannon-do which is home to an eleven-headed statue of Kannon, the goddess of Mercy and Compassion.
If this has sparked your interest and you would like to explore this national treasure yourself, check out the Byodo-in's website here http://www.byodoin.or.jp/ja/en.html and make sure to stop over in Uji on your next trip to the Kyoto area!
Access to Uji:
From JR Kyoto Station: Take the JR Nara Line to UJi (approximately 17 minutes)
From JR Nara Station: Take the JR Nara Line to Uji (approximately 30 minutes)
Uji can be easily navigated on foot with all main attractions being clearly displayed and marked on local maps.