Fodor's Expert Review Yakushi-ji Temple
The two pagodas that tower over Yakushi Temple are an analogy of past and present Japan. Yakushi-ji's East Pagoda dates from 1285, and has such an interesting asymmetrical shape that it inspired Boston Museum of Fine Arts curator Ernest Fenollosa (1853–1908), an early Western specialist in Japanese art, to remark that it was as beautiful as "frozen music." Its simple, dark brown beams with white ends contrast starkly with its flashier, vermilion-painted 20th-century neighbor, the West Tower, built in 1981. For many, the new goes against the "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete" principles of the old wabi-sabi aesthetic; but we think the contrast thrusts Yakushi-ji right into the 21st-century. Officially named one of the Seven Great Temples of Nara, Yakushi-ji was founded in 680 and moved to its current location in 718. The East Pagoda is under construction until 2020, but the rest of the temple is open to visitors.