Top 5 Attractions in Nara

Todaiji Temple jmurawski/Flickr

Todaiji Temple ©jmurawski/Flickr

Nara is one of the most important cities in the history of Japan. It was founded in the 8th century and in 2010 it celebrated its 1300th anniversary. Nara is surrounded by bigger cities, such as Kyoto or Osaka. Though it is not one of the biggest cities of Japan, Nara is famous for its huge temples. Some of the oldest shrines of Japan can be found here.

There are dozens of must-see places in Nara: mainly temples and shrines, but beautiful gardens and museums also worth a visit. Most of the attractions of Nara are located in the amazing Nara Park.

Nara Park

nara park

Landscape from Nara Park©DoNotLick/Flickr

The park is in the center of the city, at the foot of Mount Wakakusa. The size of Nara Park is nearly 6.6 square km, including Kasuga Shrine, Todaiji and Kofukuji Temples. It is the biggest park in Nara city. The park provides a beautiful landscape on the surrounding shrines and temples.

Nearly 1200 deer live freely in the park. They are considered to be the messengers of gods. The deer are tame and the visitors can pet them too. A special food for deer, the so-called deer cracker is sold all around the park, so the visitors can even feed the animals. Due to these animals, deer is one of Nara’s key symbols.

 

Todaiji Temple

Todaiji Temple jmurawski/Flickr

Todaiji Temple ©jmurawski/Flickr

The temple is located in Nara Park and it was established in the early 8th century. The temple was ruined in an earthquake, but quickly rebuilt in the 17th century. The name of the main hall is Daibutsuden and it is the largest wooden building in the world. Nowadays it has only two third of the hall’s original size.

One of the largest bronze statues of Buddha can be found in Todaiji. It weighs 25 tonnes and it is 15 meters tall. The temple also has smaller Buddhist statues, but the biggest one is the most symbolic. Temple visitors will also meet some deer wandering around the park and begging for deer crackers.

 

Kasuga Taisha

kasuga

Bronze Lanterns in Kasuga Taisha ©Berto Garcia/Flickr

The shrine is situated near Nara Park and it is one of the most representative symbols of Nara. The temple was rebuilt many times during the centuries. It was the shrine of Fujiwara Family, one of the most powerful clans of former Japan.

On several paintings, Kasuga Taisha is painted with deer walking freely on the path to the temple. The main sanctuary contains a lot of shrine buildings. The shrine is also full of bronze and stone lanterns, which are donated by worshipers. These lanterns are lit twice a year: in February and in August, on the occasion of Lantern Festivals.

 

Isuien Garden

isuien garden

A Pond in Isuien Garden ©DoNotLick/Flickr

The word Isuien means “garden founded on water”. Several ponds provide the amazing beauty of the garden. These ponds are fed by Yoshikigawa river. In the center of the garden there are two islands with the statues of a crane and a tortoise; two animals which represent longevity in Japanese culture.

The garden has been preserved from the early 19th century. It is divided in two parts and each of them features a pagoda. Tea houses are also built in the front and the rear gardens. Next to the garden we can visit Neiraku Museum, exhibiting collections of Japanese ceramics.

Kofukuji Temple

kofukuji

Kofukuji Buildings: a Temple and the Five-Story Pagoda

Kofukuji is a Temple Complex, including dozens of traditional buildings. In the 8th century it consisted of more than 150 buildings. In these days, Japan’s second tallest building, a five-story pagoda, the Tokon-do belongs to Kofukuji Temple. The main attraction of this temple is the collection of Buddhist statues, exhibited in the hall of Tokon-do.

Only two of Kofukuji’s buildings require and entrance fee: the National Treasure Museum and the Eastern Golden Hall. All the other buildings can be entered without paying. The Treasure Museum exhibits a great collection of Buddhist art and the East Golden Hall features a huge wooden statue of Buddha.

 

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