Yakushiji (òt) was constructed by Emperor Tenmu in the late 7th century for the recovery of the emperor's sick wife. One of Japan's oldest temples, Yakushiji has a strictly symmetric layout, with the main hall and lecture hall standing on a central axis, flanked by two pagodas.
The main hall was rebuilt in the 1970s after being destroyed by fire and houses a Yakushi trinity, a masterpiece of Japanese Buddhist art. The East Pagoda is the temple's only structure to have survived the many fires that have beset the temple over the years, and dates from 730. It appears to have six stories, but is in fact only truly three-storied, like the West Pagoda.
The Genjo-sanzoin Garan is a recently built complex located slightly north of the main complex area. Constructed in 1981, the complex is dedicated to the Chinese monk Genjo-sanzo, who lived in the 7th century and is famous for his extensive travels to India and Central Asia. Yakushiji is the head temple of the Hosso Sect of Japanese Buddhism, upon which Genjo-sanzo's teachings had a profound influence.
The main building at Genjo-sanzoin Garan is a central octagonal hall, in which some of Genjo-sanzo's remains are enshrined. Behind the octagonal hall is a building displaying works of Hirayama Ikuo, one of Japan's most celebrated painters who passed away in 2009. The paintings depict scenes of Genjo-sanzo's journeys, which have inspired Hirayama's work. Unfortunately, however, the complex is closed about half the year (see admission details below).
The temple is located right beside Nishinokyo Station, which can be reached from Kintetsu Nara Station by taking the Kintetsu Nara Line to Yamato-Saidaiji Station and transferring to the Kintetsu Kashihara Line. The entire trip takes about 25 minutes and costs 260 yen.
Buses number 70, 72 and 97 provide three connections per hour between the temple, JR Nara Station (15 minutes, 260 yen) and Kintetsu Nara Station (20 minutes, 260 yen). The closest bus stops served by buses 70 and 72 are Yakushiji (òt) when coming from central Nara and Nishinokyoeki (¼mw) when returning to central Nara. The closest bus stop served by bus number 97 is Yakushiji Chushajo (òtÔê).
Genjo-sanzoin Garan is closed from mid January through February, from July to mid September (except Obon in mid August) and in December