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Yakushi Ji Temple is a grand Buddhism Temple that is listed as one of Seven Great Temples of Nanto (Nanto Shichi Daichi), and also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. This captivating crimson temple are consists of two main halls and two three-storey pagodas with color red, white, and green dominated the entire buildings. Many experts are mesmerized by its unique layout that they even refer to its architectural style as “Yakushi-ji-style). Built in the 7th Century during Asuka Period, the Yakushi Ji Temple was built to worship Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha and also the first of all deities that visited the land. Although it was named after the Buddha of Healing, you'll be surprised with informations about Buddhism in Japan that you can learn from hundred artifacts kept inside the temple's buildings.
6 Amazing Charms of Yakushi Ji Temple; Temple of the Healing God
First thing you'll learn about Yakushi-Ji Temple is that the temple was actually moved all the way from Fujiwara Capital to Nara following the moving of the capital city. The original building was commissioned by Emperor Tenmu who wanted to build a temple for the Healing Buddha as a form of prayer for his consort, Empress Jito's, speed recovery from serious illness. The consort was healed although the construction of Yakushi Ji Temple haven't completed at the time until the Emperor's death. The throne was given to the Empress and the construction project was carried out by her. The temple was later moved to the North of Nara ten years after its completion in Year 698. Like many other temples in Japan, Yakushi Ji Temple are reconstructed numerous times after several parts of the buildings are destroyed by fires, natural disasters, and civil wars.
The Main Hall of Yakushi Ji Temple is one of the structures in the complex that are managed to be restored. After it was destroyed in 1528, millions of devoted worshippers in Hakuho Period worked hand in hand to rebuild the worshipping Hall. Though the original structure was unknown, the present Main Hall's structure was inspired by the Heart Sutra. The statue of Yakushi Nyorai with his two boddhisattvas, Nikko Bosatsu and Gakko Bosatsu are enshrined in the hall. The statues are covered in black sheen color, although some experts argue that the statues were coated in gold before they were engulfed in the great fire that happened in 1528. One interesting thing about the Yakushi Nyorai statue in this hall is that he wasn't depicted like any other Healing Buddha statues. This Yakushi Nyorai Statue was sitting on the medicine box (instead of lotus pedestal) and there is no medicine pot in his left hand.
Right next to the Main Hall is Yakushi Ji Temple's Lecture Hall. Like any other buildings in the complex, the hall was severely damaged due to the great fire although it was later restored in 1852. Entering the Hall, visitors will notice yet another Yakushi-Triad statues originated from Hakuho Period. A religious ritual called Buddhist Service of Turning Sutra is held on the eighth day of every month in the hall.
Standing in 34 metres tall, the Eastern Pagoda is one of the impressive pagoda in Yakushi Ji Temple that survived the great fire in 1528.The shape of its Mokoshi pent roofs are captivating, that even made this three-storey pagoda turned out like it had six stories. Many visitors are lovingly called the pagoda as “Frozen Music” referring to its fine appearance. The East Pagoda is described as the finest representation of changing architectural style from Hakuho Period to Tenpyo period.
Toindo is the oldest Zen Hall in Japan that have been stood since Year 721 before it was largely destroyed and reconstructed later in 1285. It house the sacred bronze statue of Sho Kannon sculpted during Hakuho Period that stood about 190cm high. Sho Kannon was one of the six manifestations of Goddess Kanon, his role was to save the hungry spirit that were highly occured when the city was struck with famine and war. The statue was depicted in gracefulness, many said that the posture was representing a sublimated prayer. Other sources said that the statue was made to commemorate the death of Prince Arima of Hayuho Period who was executed in the age of nineteen.
Genjo-sanzoin Garan was the newest installment in Yakushi Ji Temple complex that was built in 1981 in order to honor Genjo-sanzo, a Chinese monk in 7th Century. Genjo-sanzo was indeed an influential figure as he was the head temple of Hosso Sect in Japanese Buddhism and many people recognized him for his extensive travels to Central Asia and India. The remains of the revered monk was enshrined inside the central octagonal hall. Behind the central building is an exhibition hall that display various works of renowned painter Hirayama Ikuo. Most of his paintings are depicting the journey of the great monk.
How to Get Tickets?
To enter Yakushi Ji Shrine, you will have to pay JPY 800 or about $7.11. If you want to enter the Genjo-sanzoin Garan (which is closed from mid-January through February, July to December), you will have to pay JPY 1000 or $8.89 that will grants you access to both temple complexes.
How To Get Around?
Yakushi Ji Temple is actually not as extensive as you might think. You can easily go from one attraction to another on foot. Genjo-sanzoin Garan is also located nearby the temple complex.
What Should I Wear?
There's no certain rules on how you should dress in Yakushi Ji Temple. You can wear any clothes you feel comfortable in, and don't forget to match it accordingly with the season.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Yakushi Ji Temple is in June, when the weather is much warmer and pleasant but not too humid yet. For an alternative, Spring that falls from March to May are also a great time to visit the temple.
Will I Need a Guide?
No, all informations you need about Yakushi Ji Temple are all available in this website.
How To Get There?
The fastest way to reach Yakushi Ji Temple is by taking a metro train from Kintetsu Nara Line to Yamato Saidaiji Station. Transfer to Kintetsu Kashihara Line and alight at Nishinokyo Station. The temple will be right across the train station. For alternatives, you can also take a bus number 70 and 72, alight at Yakushiji Bus Stop, while if you take Bus number 97 you should alight at Yakushiji Chushajo. It only take few minutes walk to reach the main temple complex.