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Photos:

Murasaki Shikibu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uji

10 km on the South-East of the town, there is a picturesque site that fascinate visitors since the Middle-Ages : Uji. Its river takes its source in the lake Biwa, the biggest lake of Japan, and makes a magnifiscient scenery with the misty mountains. You should visit the Ujigami sanctuary, the oldest shinto construction dating from 1060 and the Byodo-in temple, a pavilion considered as a representation of Paradise, and that you can see on 10 yens coins. This temple was renovated in Spring 2014. Moreover, the Japanese green tea of Uji is the most popular in Japan as shoguns were drinking the tea powder " matcha ". Here was also created the process to make " sencha ", a sort of tea drunk daily.

 

Byodo-in temple

Close to the river, the Byodo-in temple was built in 1052 (Heian period) by Fujiwara-no-Yorimichi. During this period, the Fujiwara clan, an aristocratic family who maintained his power by systematically marrying his daughters to the young men of the imperial family, became important. Thanks to his relation to the Emperor, the Fujiwara clan was thriving inspite of epidemics, famines, seisms and wars. The 11th century was considered a dark period called "Mappo". Indeed, this period correspond to the 2 000th anniversary of Shakyamuni's death, the Great Buddha or Supreme Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who created Buddhism. A prediction said that, every 1 000 years, Buddhism will become obsolete and the country will collapse if nothing was done.

The only way to reflate the country and make the population feel at ease again was to let them access to the Paradise where Amitaabha (Amida), a sort of eternal Buddha, lived.

Yorimichi had the Byodo-in pavilion built and placed a huge statue of Amida inside. He invested lots of money in this symmetrical pavilion which symbolises equality, a very important notion of Buddhism. This pavilion is also called Ho-o-do, the Phoenix Pavilion, because it shows a phoenix settling on the ground. The phoenix is a mythological bird that can rebirth several times from its ashes. (See also Kinkakuji)

When looking to this pavilion, you can imagine the world people of this period was dreaming of. Its layout is the only case in Japan : the symmetrical pavilion is beside a pond. Our point of view stands for our world, the world of living people, while the other side of the pond, where the pavilion is, stands for the world we get to after death. People were looking there for serenity and came to pray for eternal rest of their soul. That's why this temple became so famous all over Japan and is represented on 10 yens coins.

Inside the pavilion, the hudge statue of Buddha made by the sculptor Jocho is in the middle of the room. Around, fixed to the walls, there were 52 statues of musicians on clouds. Half of them is now in the Hoshokan museum, inside the temple, for preservation. This scene depicts the travel of soul after death. Indeed, on his death, Buddha and accompanying people, in the appearance of musicians, will go and get the soul of the deceased. Depending on if you have commited a sin or not, the musicians who will come on Earth can have nine different appearances. The paintings on the walls of the pavilion are Kuhon-raigo-zu, litterally "nine different scenes of the arrival from Paradise". The originals inside the pavilion has almost worn away, but you can see replica in the museum. Yorimichi died at the age of 83, inside the pavilion, just in front of the hudge statue of Buddha.

In spring 2014, the renovation of the temple finished. It is now bedecked with splendid colours.

 

 

 

 

 

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