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World Heritage Sites in Japan

Scenic Beauty

Japan In-depth

Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area

The oldest wooden building in the world,
and where Silk Road culture blends in perfectly

Nara prefecture

Horyu-ji Temple was the first Japanese world heritage site registered back in 1993. Hoki-ji Temple is also registered as a world heritage site.

The core temple, Horyu-ji, was built in the year 607 by Shotoku Taishi (574-622), a politician of that time. Thirty-eight national treasures and 151 important cultural assets are preserved on the temple's vast premises, and it is a treasure house of Japanese art; at the same time it is also known as the oldest wooden structure in the world. This complex is divided into the Western Precinct centering on the Kondo (main building) and Goju-no-tou (five-story pagoda) and the Eastern Precinct centering on the Yumedono (dream pavilion). The remarkable feature of this temple is you can see patterns everywhere in which the Silk Road culture and unique Japanese culture are subtly and perfectly blended.

The Kondo houses precious sculptures including the "Shaka sanzon-zo" statue designated as a national treasure. The Goju-no-tou standing to the west of the Kondo at 32.6 m high is the oldest wooden tower in the world. It has a Japanese tile roof with a beautifully curved shallow slope. The term "Tou" indicates a tomb in which a relic of Buddha is placed, and a container for a relic rests in this Goju-no-tou as well. On the wall of the first floor there is a realistic, expressively drawn scene of Buddha on his deathbed.

The Yumedono, the central building in the Eastern Precinct, is an octagonal building constructed in 739 for the purpose of holding a memorial service for Shotoku Taishi. Inside this building stands the 178.8-cm-high Guze Kanon-zo statue, considered to be a life-size portrait of Shotoku Taishi. For years, the statue has remained wrapped in white cloth as a secret statue of Buddha withheld from public display for religious reasons and consequently has suffered almost no damage over time. In 1884 (Meiji 17), the white cloth was removed by Fenollosa (1853-1908), an oriental art researcher, and Tenshin Okakura (1862-1913), a Japanese art historian, and the appearance of the statue was revealed. Now it is on public view at certain periods during spring and autumn.

Ikaruga town Ikoma-gun Nara prefecture

Directions

Approx. 20-minute walk from the JR Horyuji station. The Horyuji station is approx. 10 minutes from the JR Nara station on JR Kansai Honsen. Or, a short walk from the Horyuji-mae bus stop. The Horyuji-mae bus stop is approx. 5 minutes from the JR Horyuji station taking the NC bus (to Horyuji-mae).