Guidance of Nara volunteer interpreter guide
◆Profile ◆World Heritage ◆Annual Events ◆Arts and Crafts ◆Transportation
 
Heijo Palace Site

The extensive open space of lawn seen between Saidaiji Station and Shin-Omiya Station on the Kintetsu Line is the Heijo Palace, the center of Heijo-kyo Capital, which lasted for 74 years over the 7 successive reigns. The Palace was located in the northernmost area of the central Heijo-kyo Capital and, with an extended area toward the east, it had a total area of about 120 hectares. Containing the Daigoku-den and the Chodo-in for formal ceremonies, the Dairl as an emperors' residence, the To-in, and government offices with 8 ministries and 100 agencies, the Palace is considered to have been surrounded by mud walls and moats with a total of 12 gates, 3 gates being built in each direction. A continuous excarvation has been carried out by the Nara National Cultural Properties Research Institute since the 34th year of Showa(1959).

Moreover, the "Suzaku-mon," or the formal gate to the Heijo Palace, and the "To-in" Garden, or the site of aristocrats' banquets and ceremonies, were restored and have been open to public since April of the 10th year of Heisei(1998).

(Near the bus stop Heijo-kyuseki on the bus route for Saidaiji Kitaguchi)

 

Todai-ji Temple

Todai-ji Temple, known for its "Daibutsu-san," or Great Buddha, is a representative temple in Nara, with an imposing appearance of the largest wooden structure in the world. This is a famous temple of the Kegon sect and was founded by Roben.

As the imperial ordinance was issued for the construction of Great Buddha, the temple was erected under national sponsorship so that the Great Buddha would be enshrined. The consecrating ceremony was held in the fourth year of the Tempyo-Shoho era (752). It took almost 40 years to complete the whole temple complex, because the temple site was gradually extended by adding more halls and pagodas.

Even after the transfer of the capital to Nagaoka in the third year of the Enryaku era (784), the temple enjoyed its prosperity under the protection of successive emperors, along with the Kofuku-ji Temple. However, the temple buildings were attacked with fire by Taira-no-Shigemori in the 4th yera of the Jisho era (1180), and by the army controlled by Matsunaga Hisahide in the 10th year of the Eiroku era (1567). Many of the buildings are reconstructions of the Edo period (1603-1868). There remain a large number of noted Buddhist statues sculptured in the Nara, Heian, Fujiwara and Kamakura periods (710-1333).

A typical sightseeing course is as follows:

the Nandai-mon Gate
the Daibutsu-den Hall
the Belfry
the Shunjo-do Hall
the Sammai-do Hall (Shigatsu-do)
the Hokke-do Hall (Sangatsu-do)
the Kaisan-do Hall
the Nigatsu-do Hall
the Tegai-mon Gate
the Kaiden-in

It takes 4 to 5 hours even if you quickly go through the whole course. If you don't have much time,it is better to focus on the Daibutsu-den Hall, the Sangatsu-do Hall (Hall for the March Rite), and the Kaidan-in (Ordination Hall).

(15 minutes' walk from Kintetsu Nara Station)

 

Kofuku-ji Temple

The Kofuku-ji Temple, situated next to the Todai-ji Temple, was prosperous as a forerunner of "Buddhism for aristocrats" in the Nara period. Among the seven biggest temples of Nara, the Kofuku-ji Temple has developed through the closest relationship with the town of Nara. In the 3rd year of the Wado era (710), the Umayasaka Temple, the predecessor of the present Kofuku-ji Temple, was transferred from Asuka to the Nara capital by Fujiwara-no-Fuhito. Then, as a tutelary temple of the Fujiwara family, it extended its influence with the prosperity of the family. The temple was attacked by the Taira family in the fourth year of Jisho (1180), and most of the temple buildings were burned down. In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), however, the Fujiwara family took a position of the Military Commissioner of Nara, and eventually became so influential that they occasionally appealed to the Imperial Palace with soldier monks.

In the vast precincts of the temple are the Chukon-do Hall, the Tokon-do Hall, the Hokuen-do Hall, the Nan'en-do Hall, the Five-storied Pagoda, the Three-storied Pagoda, the Ooyuya Bathhouse, the Oomi-do Hall and the Treasure Hall, some of which were constructed in and after the Kamakura period. As for Buddhist sculptures, there are a lot of famus articles and masterpieces of the Tempyo era.

(5 monutes' walk from Kintetsu Nara Station)

 

Kasuga Grand Shrine

The Shrine lies in a primeval forest of cedars and a kind of Chinese black pines. The brilliant vermillon edifices are beautifully contrasted with their surrounding greenery. Going through the first and second Torii gates, you can see a lot of stone lanterns standing on both sides of the approach to the shrine. Going on further, you will find the south gate on the left. The main hall is located among trees behind the gate. From the gate a corridor extends to the left and to the right. A great number of lanterns hung from the eaves of the corridor are producing an elegant atmosphere.

In the 3rd year of the Wado era (710), when the capital was transferred to Nara, Fujiwara-no-Fuhito celebrated a mass for tutelary deities of the Fujiwara family, which is considered to be the origin of this shrine. In the 2nd year of the Jingo-Keiun era (768), shrine buildings started to be constructed here. Just like the Kofuku-ji Temple,shrine buildings were added, along with the prosperity of the Fujiwara family. In the first half of the Heian period (794-1192), shrine buildings were completed on the same scale as they are today. After the Middle Ages, the belief was prevalent among commoners, which is shown by the fact that various-shaped hanging lanterns and stone lanterns known as "Mantoro" were mostly the donations from common people.

The tutelary deities enshrined here are Takemikazuchi-no-Mikoto from Kashima of Ibaraki Prefecture, Futsunushi-no-Mikoto from Katori of Chiba Prefecture, Amenokoyane-no-Mikoto and Himegami from Hiraoka of Osaka Prefecture.

(10 minutes' walk from the bus stop Kasuga Taisha Omote Sando of Loop Line Bus of the city)

 

Kasuga-yama Hill Primeval Forest

As this is a divine hill of the Kasuga Grand Shrine, the trees in the whole area of the hill behind the shrine have been prohibited from cutting down for more than 1,000 years. The hill is covered with a primeval forest of cedars, firs and cypresses. Rare animals such as a polypedatid and a kind of corbicula (Natural Monument) inhabit the hill, where it is dark even in the daytime because the area is located deep in the forest.

 

Gango-ji Temple

This edifice used to be a part of the priests' living quarters of the Gango-ji Temple, and was reconstructed as its main hall (National Treasure) and Zen hall (National Treasure) in the Kamakura period (1192-1333). The temple has attracted commoners since the Middle Ages. Numerous stone Buddhas and folk materials were discovered in the precincts. Thanks to the grand repair from the 25th to 29th year of Showa (1950-1954), we can enjoy appreciating the temple structures at the time of the Kamakura period's reconstruction.

In the storehouse are a small wooden five-storied pagoda (National Treasure), a wooden sitting statue of Amida Buddha, Chiko Mandala, an abundance of articles on folk belief, and so on.

(10 minutes' walk from Kintetsu Nara Station)

 

Yakushi-ji Temple

The establishment of the temple started in the 9th year of the Temmu era(680) with the wish of Emperor Temmu that Empress would recover from her illness. With the transfer of the capital to Nara, the temple was moved to the present site in the 2nd year of the Yoro era (718). As for the transfer of the temple, there are two theories, one being that temple buildings and images of Buddha were totally transferred to the present site, and the other going that only the name of the temple was transferred, and temple buildings and images were newly constructed on the present site. If the former theory is correct, the East Pagoda and the Yakushi Triad prove to have been made in the Hakuho period. But if the latter is correct, those are the works of the early Tempyo period. The two theories used to pose a controversial issue for the academic society of art history,but the latter theory has recently been predominant over the former. Two three-storied pagodas (the East Pagoda and the West Pagoda) are placed centering around the Golden Hall and Lecture Hall. The arrangement of the temple buildings is so unique that the style of this temple is called "Yakushi Style". A fire broke out several times and most of the buildings were burned down. The East Pagoda is now the only structure that was constructed at the time of the foundation of the temple. The other buildings including the Golden Hall were reconstructed, and finally in the spring of the 56th year of Showa(1982), the West Pagoda was completed.

The popular visiting course is to start from the station and begin with the Lecture Hall. Another course can be to go through the south gate and then visit the East Pagoda, the West Pagoda, the Golden Hall, the Bussoku-do Hall, Toin-do Hall,and the Lecture Hall in this order. After you finish visiting this temple, why don't you go to Toshodai-ji Temple?

(1 minute's walk from Kintetsu Nishinokyo Station)

 

Toshodai-ji Temple

This temple was founded in the 3rd year of the Tempyo era(759) by the Chinese Buddhist priest Ganjin Wajo, who, with the invitation of Emperor Shomu, came to Japan after going through all sorts of hardships. The whole temple, including the Golden Hall called "Tempyo-no-Iraka," the Lecture Hall and the Treasure Hall, still keeps its original appearance. The temple buildings are beautifully arranged, which shows us broad-mindedness of the people of the Tempyo era.

After the capital was transferred to Kyoto, the temple declined for some time. In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), however, the temple buildings were restored by the priest Kakujo, and in the Edo period, its edifices were repaired.

(5 minutes' walk from Kintetsu Nishinokyo Station)