Japan

Morning at Byodo-in

I had originally planned to spend the early morning hours at the Fushimi canal and sake brewing district, but changed targets when I saw the sakura there were not yet good. I knew I was very near both Fushimi Inari Taisha and the town of Uji; having been to Fushimi Inari already, I went for Uji.

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The timing was perfect, as I caught the opening of Byodo-in, Uji’s most famous attraction and also known as the Temple of the Phoenix. Photographically, the main draw here is the elegant architecture of the main hall, which ‘floats’ over a large, serene pond. Early morning was a great time to visit, with very few other visitors and the pond reflecting an echantingly pure blue sky. There’s also a museum with an impressive display of Buddhist art.

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As a history geek I was also eager to visit this temple because of something I’d read. There is a vivid description in the Heike Monogatari, the chronicle of the 12th century Genpei Wars, describing the Battle of Uji Bridge and its disastrous aftermath. The defeated Minamoto general Minamoto Yorimasa, at the time one of Kyoto’s foremost poets and scholars, fled here and committed the first recorded seppuku. His grave lies at the back of the temple, and has its own little shrine.

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