Byakugoji is an old temple in Nara prefecture. It is not clear when or who established this temple, but it is said that this place used to be a mansion of Shiki no Miko (?~716), the prince of Emperor Tenji (626~672) during Asuka and Nara period.
The main building、Hondo of Byakugoji was rebuilt in Edo period. This style of building is called Sangen Shimen, the 3 roomed building surrounded by the veranda. This is traditional style for Buddhist temple especially around Asuka period (550~710) and Nara period (710~794). You can also see paintings of these buildings on the traditional Nara pottery, Akahada ware.
Byakugoji is famous for beautiful flowers and statues of Buddhism deities.
It is located at the east side of Nara city, halfway up Takamadoyama mountain. There is a 450 years old camellia tree at Byakugoji. Red, pink, or white flowers bloom from March to April. The tree is called “Goshiki Tsubaki”, which means “A Camellia tree which produces flowers with 5 colors”.
There are over 10 statues of Buddhism deities. One of the most famous statues is “Enma”, the god of hell. These statues were created around Heian period (794~1185) to Kamakura period (1185~1333). You can sit in front of these deities and pray calmly.
The view from Byakugoji is wonderful because it is located halfway up the mountain. You can see the main area of Nara city from there.
When Shiki no Miko passed away, Kasa no Kanamura, a poet in Nara period made a beautiful poem for him.
高円の野辺の秋萩 いたづらに 咲きか散るらむ 見る人なしに
Takamado no Nobe no Akihagi Itazurani Sakika Chiruran Miruhito Nashini
This poem means;
I wonder whether Hagi (autumn flower) is blooming and falling just as usual or not even though there is no longer the person (Shiki no Miko) who admires it.
Byakugoji is famous for Hagi during autumn. This poem indicates the sadness and pathos of Hagi that is still beautiful and alive even though Shiki no Miko who admired the flower is no longer there.
At Byakugoji, you can see beautiful statues of Buddhism deities, flowers and enjoy a wonderful view. Please visit Nara as well when you come to Kyoto.