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Nara Quest : Yakushiji Temple (薬師寺)

The history of Yakushiji Temple

Late in the 7th century(A.D.680), the erection of Yakushiji was planned Emperor Temmu to pray for the recovery of his Empress from a serious illness.
The construction of Yakushiji on the site of Asuka, the south part of Nara, in the Fujiwara Capital, was not completed before the Emperor’s death.
During the long term of the construction, Temmu died, and his Empress acceded to the throne and was called Jito. In fact the actual construction was taken under her reign, and the dedication ceremony for enshrining the chief Buddha, Yakushi Nyorai, was held in 697.
The whole compound was completed in 698. But it was only ten years later that the Capital was moved to the north of Nara(in 710), and Yakushiji was also moved to the present site in 718.
The splendid layout of buildings including Kondo(Main Hall),Kodo(Lecture Hall), the East and West Pagoda were quite the reappearance of the paradise on the ground.
However, Yakushiji was burnt down and destroyed by fires, wars, or natural disasters several times, and the largest damage was caused by the civil war in 1528. Today only the Yakushiji Triad in the Kondo, the Sho-Kannon in the Toindo, and the East Pagoda recall the grandeur of its original features.
Yakushiji is one of the seven large temples in Nara(Todaiji, Dainanji, Yakushiji, Saidaiji Gangoji, Horyuji and Kofukuji) the head temple of the Hosso Sect, the oldest Buddhist sect in Japan.


World heritage



Light up Yakushiji



Yakushi-Triad in the Kondo

・Kondo(Main Hall)

In 1976 the present Kondo reap –
peared on the earth as if it were the Sea God’s Palace as the figure of the Hakuho Period instead of the Hakuho Period instead of the temporary construction rebuilt in 1600.
This hall was erected through the movement for copying of the Heart Sutra. Millions of pious people took part in this movement and made many donations to rebuild the Kondo.




The principal images in the Kondo, Yakushi-Triad, consist of Yakushi Nyorai and attendant Bodhisattvas.
They were originally covered with gold, but the great fire of 1528 gave the statues their present appearance of rich black sheen.

・Yakushi Nyorai (Buddha, Bhaisajyaguru)

National treasure. Hakuho Period(645-710)
Bronze. Height 255cm.
The statue was originally cast by the order of Emperor Temmu in 680, and completed by Empress Jito in 697.
He is the Buddha of Healing, and the Lord of the Emerald Pure Land in the East, who vowed to cure the disease of the mind and body. For this reason he was already very popular in Japan before the 7th century. He is also worshipped in order to achieve longevity.
Although Yakushi Nyorai generally has a medicine pot on his left hand, the statue in this temple does not have it.

Yakushiji_Yakushi Nyorai

Yakushi Nyorai


“Pagoda” means a grave in Pali, the ancient Indian language, and it was called “stupa” in Sanskrit. Pagoda means the grave of Buddha.
Yakushiji is the first temple which had twin pagodas in its ground.

・East Pagoda (※)

National  treasure. Hakuho Period.
Total Height 34 meters.
This pagoda, miraculously surviving the fire that destroyed Yakushiji in 1528, is the only architecture of the Hakuho Period in Japan.
This three-storied pagoda, which looks as if it were six-storied because of the Mokoshi(lean-to) added to each story, is rare in its style, and is described as “Frozen Music” because of its rhythmically fine appearance.
The original meaning or from of the grave of Buddha has been given to the Sorin part (metal roof-top ornament).
(※ … East Pagoda is now under restoration.(August 2014))

・West Pagoda

Unfortunately the original West Pagoda was burned down in 1528. After the reconstruction of the Kondo, the West Pagoda was rebuilt in 1980 owing to the movement for the copying of the Heart Sutra, too.

Yakushiji_West Pagoda

West Pagoda

Mytreya Buddha Triad in the Daikodo

Rebult in 2003. Generally, the function of this hall is academical institution for so much volumes of the monks. This hall is not only the largest hall in our temple, that is 41m.wide,20m.deep,and 17m.high but also in the wooden architecture in this century in Japan. This hall enshrines Mytreya Buddha Triad, (Nationally important art object, Hakuho Period) who was introduced as a reincarnation of the real person of Buddha. Bussoku-seki and Bussoku-seki Verses are also enshrined behind of these Main Buddha. “Saishoue” was one of the most famous buddhistic ceremony in charge of the Imperial envoy had hold in this hall by 450 yesrs ago. In 2004, we started to restore this ceremony.




Photography of all Buddha is prohibited.


■Access information■
Admission hours: 8:30 to 17:00
(Visitors are requested to enter before 16:30)
457 Nishinokyou-cho, Nara City, Nara
Tel : 0742-33-6001


Source : The official Guide

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A Japanese born in Osaka, now living in Okayama.

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