The Byodoin Temple in Uji is only illuminated and open to the public a few evenings a year. We were quite lucky to find out about it and see the amazing Phoenix Hall under such conditions.
Byodoin Temple is a striking example of Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture. Together with its garden, the temple represents the Pure Land Paradise. Byodoin was initially built in 998, not as a temple but as a countryside retreat villa for a powerful politician, Fujiwara no Michinaga.
Michinaga’s son turned Byodoin into a temple and ordered the construction of its most spectacular feature, the Phoenix Hall. Although the building was given another official name, almost immediately after its construction in 1053, it was nicknamed Hoodo (“Phoenix Hall”) because of its shape and the two phoenix statues on its roof. The hall is now featured on the back of the Japanese ten yen coin.