Rather than doing more sightseeing in Kyoto, I spent the afternoon down in the town of Uji. It only takes about 25-30 minutes to reach Uji by train, making it an easy day trip from Kyoto (it’s also only about 40 minutes from Nara). I was taking a very relaxed pace that afternoon and I’d only be visiting a couple sightseeing spots within Uji, starting with Byodoin Temple. From JR Uji Station it’s just a few minutes walk across town to the temple’s entrance.
Byodoin Temple was first built in the year 998 and was the rural villa of a high-ranking member of Japan’s imperial court and in 1052 it was converted into a Buddhist temple. A year later the temple’s most prominent building, the Phoenix Hall pictured above, was completed. If any of you have seen Japanese currency you’ll recognize that the Phoenix Hall is the building featured on the back of the 10-yen coin. Phoenix Hall is the only building at Byodoin Temple to have survived from it’s original construction all the way to today, and it is one of the few remaining structures from Japan’s Heian Period, which covers the years 710 to 1185.
I unfortunately was unlucky in my timing to visit Byodoin Temple. Phoenix Hall was undergoing restoration work when I was there, and consequently I couldn’t go inside. The work was scheduled to finish four days later but I would be long gone from the Kyoto region when that happened.
Though I wasn’t able to go inside Phoenix Hall, I was able to tour the temple’s museum. Photography is not allowed inside the museum but I can tell you that it houses a lot of artifacts and thankfully has multilingual displays. Once I finished inside the museum I explored the temple grounds behind Phoenix Hall and then made my way to the exit.