Yakushi-ji Temple 薬師寺
Nara has a large number of temples of great antiquity classed as UNESCO world heritage sites. The Yakushi-ji is one of them, but is special in many ways.
Yakushi-ji is where the Yakushi Buddha is venerated, a Buddha of the past specialized in medicine. The temple was in fact been built in the seventh century on the orders of Emperor Temmu who seeking to get a cure.
Yakushi Buddha is also linked to the east, the rising sun, so has long been associated with the imperial family. Yakushi-ji is also not far from the ruins of the imperial palace Heijô.
A new ancient temple
Going back to the origins of the history of Japan, Yakushi-ji was the victim of the dark hours of the archipelago and almost completely burned in 1528 during the wars of the Sengoku Jidai.
In the early twentieth century all that remained was its Pagoda Toto. The pagoda is the only original structure of the whole building.
In the late 1990s, a vast reconstruction program made it possible to rebuild the temple complex as close to its original state.
The Kondô, gold lobby, Daikodô, building of sermons and west pagoda dates from this reconstruction. All shiny and new, but perfectly integrated to its environment: the Pagoda is finally regained its place.
The pagoda to the east, Toto, deserves your attention. Its archaic architecture of the seventh century makes it unique. Archaic but certainly far from simple with false floors who make it seem larger and complex. It reflects Chinese and Korean influences of the first Japanese architecture.
The Kondô also contains a triad of Yakushi statues which is surrounded by two soft and elegant Bodhisattvas. The bronze statues are original seventh century survivors of the long history of the temple.
Nearly Yakushi-ji you will find the totally contemporary religious complex dedicated to the Chinese monk Genjo Sanzo.
Yakushi-ji Temple, eccentric compared to other temples of Nara, is none the less an element that is worth a look, especially at night when its lit pagodas reflects on the neighboring ponds.