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Nara 奈良

Todai-ji Temple illuminated at night, Nara
Todai-ji Temple illuminated at night
Isuien Garden, Nara (photo by Gribeco - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Isuien Garden

Prior to Tokyo and Kyoto, the very first permanent capital of Japan was Nara (pop. 364,000), a town occupying the northern part of the Yamato plain, at the foor of Mount Wakakusa. As the birthplace of the Japanese civilisation, Nara should rank high on anybody's list of places to visit in Japan.

Nara is the second only to Kyōto in number of ancient attractions. It has 5 sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, including the oldest wooden structure in the world, Hōryū-ji Temple, in its vicinity. Visitors usually head directly to the Tōdai-ji, which houses the largest Buddha statue in Japan (the second largest being in Kamakura).

Nara has a relaxed provincial atmosphere, and deers graze peacefully in the numerous parks, or wait that tourists feed them "shika-sembe". That makes Nara a popular school-trip destination for primary school pupils.

History

The first early capitals of Japan from the 3rd to 8th centuries C.E. were all established around contemporary Nara. Originally, Shintō religion imposed that the capital be moved every time an emperor passed away. In 710, the first permanent capital was founded and named Heijōkyō (平城京 - 'peaceful fortified capital') on the site of present-day Nara. The capital stayed at this location until 794, when it was moved permanently to Heiankyō (平安京 - 'peaceful capital'), a city that later adopted the name of Kyōto (simply 'capital city').

Attractions

Tōdai-ji Temple
Byōdō-in Temple
must-see Tōdai-ji Temple is reputedly the largest wooden building in the world. It houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana. In year 743, emperor Shōmu ordered the construction of a giant...Read more
Hōryū-ji Temple
Hōryū-ji Temple
outstanding Hōryū-ji Temple is the oldest temple in Japan. Its main hall, central gate and five-story pagoda are the most ancient wooden buildings in the world, dating from the late 7th century. The temple was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site...Read more
Yakushi-ji Temple
Manpuku-ji Temple
outstanding Yakushiji is the head temple of the Hossō school of Japanese Buddhism. Founded in 680 is one of the country's oldest temple as well as one of the most famous imperial temple. It is dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha...Read more
Kōfuku-ji Temple
Manpuku-ji Temple
very good The family temple of the influential Fujiwara family, Kōfuku-ji was originally established in Kyōto in 669 to pray for the clan leader's recovery from an illness. It moved together with the capital to Heijō-kyō in 710...Read more
Kasuga Taisha Shrine
Byōdō-in Temple
very good Like the Kōfuku-ji Temple, the Kasuga Shrine was commisssioned by the Fujiwara family. When it was founded in 768, at the time of Heijō-kyō, this Shintō shrine is one of the most important in Japan...Read more
Nara National Museum
Nara National Museum (photo by 663highland - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good Opened in 1889, the Nara National Museum is one of Japan's four national museums. Its collection of Buddhist art, date mostly from the 6th to the 14th centuries, and include images, sculptures, and altar articles. Among remarkable items are a 9th-century seated sculpture of the Healing Buddha, the 12th-century Hell Scroll, and the 12th-century Jōdo mandara-zu.

How to get there

Nara is easily accessible by train from Kyōto (40min, ¥610) or Ōsaka (40 min, ¥780).

The nearest airport are Osaka Itami (60 min by bus, ¥1,440) and Kansai International Airport (95 min by bus, ¥1,800), both with flights to the major destinations within Japan and overseas.

Kansai Guide
Amanohashidate
Hikone
Himeji Castle
Hōryū-ji Temple
Iga Ueno
Ise Jingu
Kii Peninsula
Kōbe
Kyōto
Mount Kōya
Mount Kumano
Mount Ōmine
Mt Yoshino
Nara
Ōsaka
Uji

Map of Japan


Nara Guide
Hōryū-ji-in Temple
Kasuga Shrine
Kōfuku-ji Temple
Tōdai-ji Temple
Yakushi-ji Temple















               

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