Look on the back of a Japanese 10 yen coin and you'll see Byodoin Temple's famous Hoodo Hall, also known as Amida Hall or Phoenix Hall. This building is one of the country's most well-known examples of Buddhist architecture and the only original structure of the Byodoin Temple complex that remains today.
Byodo-in is easily accessed by rail from Kyoto or Nara.
From Kyoto Station, take the Nara Line to Uji Station, about 30 minutes away. The shrine is a 15-minute walk east of the station.
Originally a villa belonging to the Fujiwara clan, a powerful family of regents, Byodoin was converted to a Buddhist temple in 1052 and has operated since then. Hoodo was constructed the following year and has stood ever since.
Originating from China, the symbol of the phoenix is worshipped by Buddhists as Buddha's protector. The shape of the Hoodo Hall references the form of the bird, and two bronze phoenixes sit atop the roof, facing each other in pleasing symmetry.
Inside the hall sit a cedar statue of the Amida Buddha covered in gold leaf and accompanied by 52 bodhisattvas. These treasures also date from the 11th century and are believed to be the work of sculptor Jocho.
15-minute tours of the hall are the only way to see the ancient carvings, paintings, and Amida sculpture inside. Tours are in Japanese only, but an English leaflet is available.
Adjacent to the temple is the Hoshokan Museum. The museum exhibits the original temple bell and phoenix roof ornaments, as well as other treasures no longer in the main hall.