Byōdō-in (平等院) Buddhist Temple
Byōdō-in (平等院) is a Buddhist temple in the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. It is jointly a temple of the Jodo Shu (Pure Land) and Tendai sects.
The main building in Byōdō-in, the Phoenix Hall consists of a central hall, flanked by twin wing corridors on both sides of the central hall, and a tail corridor. The central hall houses an image of Amida Buddha. The roof of the hall displays statues of the Chinese phoenix, called hōō in Japanese.
This temple was originally built in 998 in the Heian period as a rural villa of Fujiwara no Michinaga, one of the most powerful members of the Fujiwara clan. This villa was changed to a Buddhist temple by Fujiwara no Yorimichi in 1052. The most famous building in the temple is the Phoenix Hall (鳳凰堂 hōō-dō) or the Amida Hall, constructed in 1053. It is the only remaining original building, surrounded by a scenic pond; additional buildings making up the compound were burnt down during a civil war in 1336.
The Phoenix Hall, completed in 1053, is the exemplar of Fujiwara Amida halls. It consists of a main rectangular structure flanked by two L-shaped wing corridors and a tail corridor, set at the edge of a large artificial pond. Though its official name is Amida-dō, it began to be called Hōō-dō, or Phoenix Hall, in the beginning of the Edo period. This name is considered to derive both from the building's likeness to a phoenix with outstretched wings and a tail, and the pair of phoenixes adorning the roof.
Inside the Phoenix Hall, a single image of Amida (c. 1053) is installed on a high platform. The Amida sculpture is made of Japanese cypress and is covered with gold leaf. It was executed by Jōchō, who used a new canon of proportions and a new technique, yosegi, in which multiple pieces of wood are carved out like shells and joined from the inside. The statue measures about three meters high from its face to its knees, and is seated. Applied to the walls of the hall are small relief carvings of celestials, the host believed to have accompanied Amida when he descended from the Western Paradise to gather the souls of believers at the moment of death and transport them in lotus blossoms to Paradise. Raigō paintings on the wooden doors of the Phoenix Hall, depicting the Descent of the Amida Buddha, are an early example of Yamato-e, Japanese-style painting, and contain representations of the scenery around Kyoto.
There is a Jodo-shiki garden with a pond in front of the building, which in 1997 was dredged as part of an archeological dig.
The Byōdō-in museum stores and displays most of Byōdō-in's national treasures, including 52 wooden Bodhisattvas, the temple bell, the south end Phoenix, and other historically noteworthy items.
Japan commemorates its longevity and cultural significance by displaying its image on the 10 yen coin, and the 10,000 yen note features the phoenix image. In December 1994, UNESCO listed the building as a World Heritage Site as part of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto". The Phoenix Hall, the great statue of Amida inside it, and several other items at Byōdō-in are national treasures.
A half-size replica of the temple was completed on June 7, 1968 in the Valley of the Temples (O'ahu, Hawaii).
Uji 宇治市 Uji-shi
Uji 宇治市, Uji-shi is a city on the southern outskirts of the city of Kyoto, in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. Founded on March 1, 1951, Uji is located between the two ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto. The city sits on the Uji River, which has its source in Lake Biwa. As of April 1, 2008, Uji has an estimated population of 193,020 and is the second largest city in Kyoto prefecture. The city has an area of 67.55 km², giving it a density of 2,856 persons per km².
In the 4th century the son of Emperor Ōjin established a palace in Uji.
Three Battles of Uji-gawa took place here in 1180, 1184, and 1221.
Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358–1408) promoted cultivation of green tea in the Uji area. Since that time Uji has been an important production and distribution center of superior quality green tea. Tsuen tea has been served since 1160 and is still sold in what is the oldest tea shop in Japan, and possibly the world—the Tsuen tea shop.
The final chapters of the Tale of Genji are set in Uji, attracting visiting literature buffs.
Sightseeing and events
Phoenix Hall and Garden, Byōdō-in
Most visitors are attracted to Uji for its centuries old historic sites which include many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Among the most famous are the Ujigami Shrine (built in 1060) and the Byōdō-in which are listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto". The Byōdō-in, with its Amida (Phoenix) Hall built in 1053, is featured on the reverse side of the 10 yen coin.
Other religious sites include the Mampuku-ji, the head temple of the Ōbaku Zen sect, built in Chinese Ming style in 1661 and the Zen temple Kōshō-ji, with its Kotozaka entrance (framed with dense thickets of cherry, kerria, azalea, and maple trees, each of which dramatically changes color with the seasons) constructed in 1648. Also noteworthy is the Mimurodo-ji, which is famous for its abundance of purple hydrangeas. The city also features numerous other small Shinto shrines. With a few exceptions, most of the important historical sites are located within walking distance of one another and all are easily accessed by rail.
Due to its striking natural setting, Uji also boasts many natural attractions, including the scenic Uji riverside, several large parks, and a botanical garden. Slightly upriver from Uji bridge, the Amagase Dam spans the river and day trippers can walk to its base in about an hour. The route, which begins directly across from Keihan Uji Station, is a wonderful walk alongside the river on a paved road and offers access to several grassy open spaces where people can rest and picnic.
The city hosts two major festivals each year. The Agata Festival, held on June 5, begins in the early morning and runs until late at night. The festival is famous throughout western Japan for the activities that are rumored to take place when the lights are suddenly doused at midnight. Also, like many cities in Japan, Uji hosts an hours long fireworks festival on August 10. Both events draw huge crowds and require that the town's main thoroughfare to be shut down.
Uji is served by three rail companies: JR West, Keihan, and Kintetsu. The Keihan line which runs primarily between Kyoto City and downtown Osaka serves the city via a branch line Uji Line running from Chushojima station and ending along the river at Keihan Uji Station beside the Uji Bridge. The station is conveniently located close to Uji's Tale of Genji Town, Uji Bridge, and the Byodoin. All trains on this line are local and stop at every station.
The JR Nara Line runs between Kyoto and Nara. JR Uji station was, until a few years ago, a fairly rural station but was recently rebuilt as a more modern station to better serve the city. Architecturally it mimics the Byodo-in and is on the opposite side of the Uji river, about 10 minutes' walk from Keihan Uji Station. The clock that stands in front of the station is of special interest and, every hour on the hour, opens to reveal an automated show that celebrates the town's heritage as a center of tea production. Like Keihan Uji Station, JR Uji also has easy access to all the same sites. The station is served by both local and express trains.
Kintetsu serves West Uji with a line between Kyoto and Nara and does not have a station named for the town. The line is primarily used by commuters and includes Ogura, Iseda, and Okubo. No stations are close to the main tourist sites.
Local buses have numerous routes within the city and public transportation is good. Charter buses to and from the Kansai International (KIX) and Itami airports can also be caught at most of the train stations.
Uji is located south of the main Meishin Expressway and is served directly by the Keiji Bypass, a toll road that was completed only a few years ago. The Keiji Bypass serves to circumvent both Kyoto and Otsu which can be subject to traffic jams during certain seasons. The road is notable for its high trestles and series of long tunnels — including one that is approximately six miles long. The Keiji Bypass also links to Dai Ni Keihan Road (Number Two Kyoto Osaka Road) which is under construction but currently usable for at least part of its length.
Non-toll roads include Route 1 which runs between Kyoto and Osaka and Route 24 which runs between Kyoto and Nara Both of these roads are usually filled with traffic and have many stoplights. Close by is Route 307, which runs east/west along the southern edge of the city between Osaka and Shiga prefecture. This is a fairly rural road that leads through the mountains and, once away from the urban centers, makes a nice day trip.
Of special interest to motorsports enthusiasts is the Ujigawa Line (Uji River Line). This twisty road parallels the Uji River between Uji and Otsu and is a favorite for racers. The road is dangerous and often claims the lives of those who do not respect it. Due to numerous accidents, the route is closed to motorcycles for most of August, when Japanese schools are typically out of session.
Uji has friendship agreements with three other cities:
Kyoto Prefecture (京都府, Kyōto-fu)
Kyoto Prefecture (京都府, Kyōto-fu) is a prefecture of Japan located in the Kansai region of the island of Honshū. The capital is the city of Kyoto.
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