Yakushiji Temple – Nara | Travel Information

Quick Information

Founder: Emperor Tenmu

Constructed Began: 680 A.D

Deity: Yakushi Nyoai

Original Building?: No

Cause of Original building destruction: Fire

Yakushi-ji Main Hall - Kondō

Yakushiji Temple (Yakushi-ji) dates back to the 7th century (680 A.D), constructed by Emperor Tenmu. It’s easily one of the oldest temples in Japan, classified as one of the ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

The Temple was established by Emperor to pray for the recovery of his wife, as she became quite sick. Emperor Tenmu had passed away before the temple could have been completed, but his wife made a recovery and took over as Empress Jitō (The 3rd of 8 women to become Empress) , who finished the construction of the entire complex in 698. Empress Jitō passed away in 703 A.D at the age of 53 

7 years after the passing of Empress Jitō, in 710, the Capital of Imperial Japan became Nara (The capital at the time was Fujiwara-kyō), and in 718, the Yakushi-ji moved to it’s current location in Nara.  

Unfortunately, like many of the large wooden structures established many years ago, the original Yakushi-ji  has burnt down. The first fire was in 973, which destroyed many of the original buildings, and another fire in the 1528 lead to the destruction of the Main hall (Kondō). Kondō was rebuilt 1976. The only original building which has stood to this day is the East Pagoda.

 

Yakushiji Lecture Hall
Yakushiji Lecture Hall viewed from a distance

The Yakushi-ji complex is stunning, with so much history and is a fine example of traditional Japanese Architecture. The temple grounds are symmetrical, having 2 main halls, and 2 three-storied pagodas around the facility. Kondō houses several famous Buddhist icons depicting the deity Yakushi Nyoai, who was said to be the healing Buddha. These images were originally golden when first constructed many centuries ago. Over time, these images and statues have been stained black as a result of the fire of 1528.

Behind Kondō, you can find the lecture hall, also known as Kodō, where you can find another Buddhist icon damaged by the fire of 1528 As mentioned early, the East Pagoda, is the only original building remaining from it’s initial construction. If you’re interested in early Japanese history and culture, then this is certainly the place for you!

 

West Pagoda

 

The East Pagoda (Yakushi Toto) was first built in 730 A.D, making it the only 9th century building to be found at the Yakushi-ji premise.  It’s looks are deceiving, from the outside, it appears to have 6 stories, but in reality, the East Pagoda only has 3 stories, totally 34m (112ft). The East Pagoda is currently under construction, and you can not see the Pagoda. If it were not covered in scaffolding, you would be able to see the East Pagoda to the left after entering through the southern gate. 

However, you can still see the West Pagoda (as Pictured). The West Pagoda (Yakushi Saito) is designed very similarly. The West Pagoda is larger in size and height, but still has the appearance of having 6 floors, where again, it only has a total of 3. 

 

Admission & Hours

  • 8:30am-5:00pm
  • 1100JPY

Access

Yakushi-ji is only a short walk from Nishinokyo Station, which can easily be access from Kintestsu-Nara station, with a quick transit at Yamato-Saidaiji Station (5 minute ride from Kintestsu-Nara Station), and a further 4 minute ride from Yamato-Saidaiji Station to Nishinokyo Station, total trip totals 260JPY

Accommodation

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