Visiting temples in “South of Kyoto,” Byodoin & Daigoji temples - The Charm in Winter


Kyoto is an ancient capital with many temples and shrines, but have you ever visited any places other than Gion or Arashiyama? Or are you satisfied with only these popular areas? Even in Kyoto city alone, if you go just a little further to the south, there are Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine and Daigoji Temple of World Heritage. And Uji City that has two world heritage sites such as Byodoin Temple and Ujigami Shrine spreads across the Uji river, which is boasting a rich amount of water.

In this series, we will focus on the temples located in the south of Kyoto and introduce them with the beautiful seasons of Japan. This time we will introduce the charm of world heritage sites in winter, centered on Uji. It is famous as the stage of Ujijujo (Ten Stories of Uji) of “Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari),” and also known as a producing area of high-quality Japanese tea.

“Hoo-do (the Phoenix Hall)” engraved in 10yen coin – A world heritage “Byodoin” Temple

Fujiwara clan seized power in the imperial court during the Heian period. Byodoin that is a villa which had belonged to Fujiwara Michinaga who had built heyday at that time, was made into a Buddhist temple by his son Fujiwara Yorimichi. This is how Byodoin begins.

©Byodoin Temple

“Hoo-do (the Phoenix Hall)” is best known as engraved in 10-yen coin. The restoration has ended in 2014, and got even closer to its old figure, which the red pillars had stood out. Since the elegant and symmetrical building looked like a legendary bird “Hoo (phoenix)” spreading both wings, when looked from the sky, so it was named after it.

©Byodoin Temple

In the Hoo-do, there is a sitting statue of Amithaba, which is a masterpiece created by a famous sculptor of Buddhist statues of the Heian period.

©Byodoin Temple

52 of Unchu Kuyo Bodhisattva, a bonsho (temple bell), and the hoo which decorated the roof of Hoo-do are displayed at “Hosho-kan” museum in the Byodoin’s precincts. Moreover, it is worth seeing the exhibition itself which restored the colorful coloring at that time using full use of various technologies including CG.

©Byodoin Temple

The best visiting time would be a cold early morning. The Heian nobles enjoyed a scenery of frost garden and composed Waka (a poem written in 31 words) with it. You may feel the same elegant environment which people over 1,000 years ago also felt.

“Byodoin Temple”
●116, Ujirenge, Uji-shi, Kyoto
●8:30-17:30(Reception close 17:15), Hosho-kan 9:00-17:00, Inside of Hoo-do 9:10-16:10 (50 persons at every 20 minutes. Will be closed when the number of applicants reaches the capacity)
●No holidays
●Admission: Adult 600 yen, Junior High and High School Students 400 yen, Elementary School Students 300 yen
*Admission for Hoo-do, 300 yen per person is additionally required

Experience the world of “Genji Monogatari” — “Genji Monogatari Museum in Uji”

It is a museum with the theme of “Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji),” the oldest novel in the world, written by Murasaki Shikibu, a female writer of the Heian period.

You can feel the world of Genji Monogatari with displays of “Rokujo-in,” which was the main character Hikarugenji's residence, noble’s costumes, furniture and a reproduction of oxcart.

“Uji Jujo” (a love story of the son and grandchildren set in Uji, after the death of Hikarugenji who is the hero of Genji Monogatari), a joint exhibition with Uji City History Museum – “Tea, Sightseeing spots and Uji” has just started from February 21, 2018.

Kyoto's guidebook published in the Edo period exhibited at the exhibition (Uji City History Museum)

“Genji Monogatari Museum in Uji (The Tale of Genji Museum)”
●45-26, Ujihigashiuchi, Uji-shi, Kyoto
● Closed on Mondays (open if Monday is a holiday, and the following day will be closed), New Year's holiday
●Admission Adult 500 yen, Children 250 yen

World heritage site with the oldest shrine in Japan “Ujigami Shrine”

The honden (main shrine) that is estimated built in the late Heian period, and the haiden (a hall of worship) that was built in the Kamakura period with the shinden-zukuri style, which keeps the residence style of Heian period, are the oldest wooden buildings in Japan that still exist.


In the precincts, “Kirihara-mizu,” one of the “Seven Great Springs of Uji,” wells up. “Seven Great Springs of Uji” is no longer there except for Kimihara-mizu, but Uji had a good quality spring water, which made Uji became the tea village. Currently, we can neither drink nor go into Kirihara-mizu. But wash your hands with clear water in the hut.


“Ujigami Shrine”
●59, Ujiyamada, Uji-shi, Kyoto
●Admission: free


“Tsuen” is a well-established teahouse originated from a soan (thatched hut), which was built by the vassal of influencer in the Heian period. They served as a hashimori (keeper) of Uji Bridge, and provided tea to the people passing by. The name of Tsuen, the family’s last name of the owner of the shop is famous enough as often appeared in books and Kyogen (a satirical play that began in the Muromachi period, 1336-1573).

Inside the store, there are many tools as well as teapots which were once used for keeping tea leaves. You can witness the history of the teahouse.

Many tea-flavored menus are served at the tea room, including cha-soba noodle, matcha soft cream, and anmitsu (Japanese sweet) with plenty of green tea honey.

Tsuen's tea leaves are all high quality Uji tea carefully selected by the owner. They are available at only here in Kyoto. Take one as a souvenir of the trip.

“Tsuen Honten”
●1, Ujihigashiuchi, Uji-shi, Kyoto
●No holidays

A number of shrine halls were built around the mountain -- “Daigoji Temple”

Whole Daigoyama (Mt. Daigo) is regarded as the temple grounds, and it is a vast temple with full of sights. Kamidaigo on the mountain, Shimodaigo at the foot of the mountain, Seiryu-gu Haiden (worship hall), a five-story pagoda, and many more shrine halls are dotted in the premises.

Whole Daigoyama (Mt. Daigo) is regarded as the temple grounds, and it is a vast temple with full of sights. Kamidaigo on the mountain, Shimodaigo at the foot of the mountain, Seiryu-gu Haiden (worship hall), a five-story pagoda, and many more shrine halls are dotted in the premises.

Every year on February 23, a special prayer for peace and happiness of people is held at the main hall, and it is bustling with a number of people. An amulet “Miei” that avoids disaster and theft, given at only this day is still affixed to the entrance of many stores and houses in Kyoto, and collecting people’s faith even now.

“Daigoji Temple”
●22, Daigo Higashioji-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto
●9:00-16:30 (March 1st - December 10th 9:00-17:00, reception close one hour before the gate closing. Climbing to Kamidaigo until 15:00)
●No holidays
●Admission Adults 800 yen, Junior and high school students 600 yen, Elementary school students and under free (Spring and Autumn – Adults 1,500 yen, Junior and high school students 1,000 yen)
* Kamidaigo entry fee is additionally required. Adult 600 yen, Junior and high school student 400 yen, Elementary school student and under free

*The above information was last updated January 15, 2018. For further information, please contact the facilities directly.

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