Uji’s temples are known throughout Japan. So famous in fact that they feature on the 10-yen coin, and in the Tale of Genji (considered, by some standards, to be the world’s first novel).
The city of Uji makes a great day trip destination from Kyoto or Osaka. As well as a relaxing stroll to the various temples, you can also enjoy some delicious premium green tea. Here are our picks for the best temples in Uji.
If you’re not visiting Uji to try some of its premium green tea then surely you’re visiting to see the famous temple found on the back of those dozens of 10-yen coins in your wallet. Byōdōin was built during the Heian Period in around 998 AD as a private villa for Minamoto no Shigenobu, one of the ministers at the Imperial court. After his death, the family of a Fujiwara clan member converted it into a temple in 1052 AD, which was common at the time.
A year later the famous Phoenix Hall, depicted on the 10-yen coin, was added to the temple complex to house an image of Amida Buddha. Unfortunately, fires during the Boshin War (1868 to 1869) destroyed most of the other buildings, and only the Phoenix Hall survived. Some argue this is actually a blessing in disguise since the scenic area surrounding it perfectly represents the Buddhist Pure Land — or paradise on the earth.
The temple is open to the public every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Entry costs ¥600 for adults, ¥400 for junior high school students, and ¥300 for elementary school students. However, there is an additional fee of ¥300 to visit the inside of the Phoenix Hall.
Pro tip: The best time to visit Byōdōin is on a clear day when you can see the Hall’s reflection in the pond.
Next up on our temple walk is Kōshōji Temple, just across the Uji River from Byōdōin. Originally, Kōshōji was built in Kyoto in 1233, but fires destroyed the complex and much of its treasures. In 1648 Lord Naomasa decided to rebuild the temple in Uji around the Kannon statue said to be brought in from the sacred grove Tenarai-no-mori mentioned in the Tale of Genji.
If you visit Uji in autumn you can see the stunning maple foliage engulfing the approach to the temple in shades of red and orange. Kōshōji opens its gates at 9 a.m. and closes them again at 5 p.m., and there is no admission fee.
From Kōshōji its about a 20-minute walk through the north-eastern part of Uji to reach Mimurotoji Temple. Mimurotoji Temple is another temple related to the Tale of Genji as it is said that the character Ukifune is buried here.
No matter which month of spring you decide to visit, you will see its large garden’s seasonal flowers in bloom. From cherry blossoms in April to azalea in May to hydrangea in June, and lotuses in July, it’s no wonder the temple is also known as the ‘Flower Temple’.
Mimurotoji Temple is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and entry is just ¥500.
The final stop of our Uji temple tour is Manpukuji Temple. Although you can walk to it, if it’s late in the day taking the train is a better option because Manpukuji closes at 5 p.m. Take the train from Mimuroto Station to Obaku Station on the Keihan Uji Line.
The temple was founded around 1661 after the Chinese Zen-Buddhist priest Ingen introduced a new Zen Buddhist sect known as the Obaku Sect with Mampukuji as its head temple. You may in fact notice the influence of Chinese architecture of the time in the construction techniques as well as design of Manpukuji. The Obaku sect made many notable contributions to Japan’s technical advancements, such as land reclamation and bridge-building, and also set up Japan’s first library.
Entry to Manpukuji Temple costs ¥500.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in May 2016. Last updated: January 2024.