Yakushiji Temple was originally built near Kashihara in 680, by Emperor Tenmu. When the capital was moved to Heijokyo, Yakushiji was also moved to its current location in Nishinokyo.
The temple is only a short walk from Kintetsu Nishinokyo Station.
When the emperor's wife fell sick, the emperor built Yakushiji to ensure that prayers were made for her speedy recovery. Yaku means medicine in Japanese, and, as a result, the temple is associated with medicine and healing.
Inside the temple is a medicine Buddha called Yakushi-sanzon, dating back to 680. The medicine Buddha is one of the first icons to come from China and known for curing life-threatening illnesses.
The pagoda at Yakushiji is a veritable optical illusion. While the main pagoda is really a 3-storied pagoda, the small roof-like eaves on each story give the illusion that the pagoda has twice as many stories as it does.