Yakushiji Temple (薬師寺) is another very important piece of Nara’s (奈良) history. It was founded in the 7th century by emperor Tenmu which makes it one of the oldest temples in all of Japan (日本). The temple is special in regard to its layout: the different temple buildings are aligned in symmetrical order, something that is not often the case with temples.
People who like neatly arranged things will like this one. The eastern and western Pagoda are placed in perfectly neat distances to the main hall. Speaking of which, the main hall is unfortunately not original as it burned down once in recent history. It was rebuilt in the 1970s.
There is however the eastern Pagoda which is the only building that is still in its original form, dating back to the 7th century.
In addition to the temple’s main grounds with the main hall and pagodas, there is a small area to the north. Here, you can find an Octagonal Hall which is dedicated to a Chinese monk that was once an important figure for Buddhism. There is also an art collection based on the monk’s journey in a separate building next to said hall.
Unfortunately, this area (which is called Genjo-sanzoin Garan in honor to the above-mentioned monk) is only opened about 6 months in a year. More on that below in the chapter admission and opening hours.
Another side note for the main temple: The eastern pagoda is currently undergoing renovation and is therefore covered up and not visible. The rest of the temple is unaffected. These construction works are planned to be done in April 2020.
Opening Hours & Admission Fee
- Opened every day from 8:30 – 17:00 (last entry 16:30)
- There are no closing days for the main temple
Genzo-sanjoin Garan is closed from mid-January through February, July through mid-September and December
- Entrance fee is 1100 Yen (8,80€/$9.90; exchange rate as of April 2019) for both the main temple and Genzo-sanjoin Garan. 800 Yen (6,40€/$7.21) for just the temple when Garan is closed
How to get to Yakushiji Temple
Yakushiji Temple is located in western Nara, so on the opposite side of Nara Park. You can reach it quite easily by train or bus:
There are 3 connections starting from Kintetsu Nara Station as well as JR Nara Station. Namely 70, 72 and 97, they all take between 15 and 20 minutes to reach the temple. Cost is 260 Yen (2,08€/$2.34). Busses from JR Nara Station arrive a little quicker than the ones from Kintetsu Nara Station. The closest bus stop is called Yakushiji.
The closest train station is Nishinokyo Station which is just a few minutes away by foot. You can take the Kintetsu Nara Line to Yamato-Saidaiji Station where you need to transfer to the Kintetsu Kashihara Line. The trip costs 260 Yen and takes about 25 minutes.
Yakushiji Temple is yet another piece of ancient history in Japan’s oldest capital Nara. With its symmetrical design, it is certainly a unique build for such an old temple. 7th century is where Japanese Buddhism started to thrive in Japan. Yakushiji Temple is thus one of the first to be a symbol of the religion.
While it is located to the west of the two major train stations it is still relatively close to the city center. If you also plan on visiting Horyuji temple, which I have covered before, you need to travel further south. As bearer of the oldest wooden structures, it is bound to attract some history nerds for sure. And that is true for Yakushiji temple as well, housing one of the oldest original pagodas in all of Japan.
That’s it for Yakushiji Temple, I hope you enjoyed it!
If you found this article useful, please consider sharing it with your friends and family, it would mean a lot to me!
See you there!