High status temple which grants wishes for peace for the Empress known as Empress Shotoku
(c) Nara Visitors Bureau Saidaiji Temple is one of Nara's 7 great temples. This temple was built on the western side of Heijo-kyo (Japan's capital during the Nara Period (710 - 794)) as a counterpart to the Todaiji (Great Eastern Temple) which is a symbol of Nara. It was founded in 765 to pray for peace, and has one of the Buddhist Four Heavenly Kings. It was originally a magnificent temple on a 48 hectare site with over 100 buildings and towers. But its size shrunk with many disasters such as fires. Most of its current buildings were rebuilt in later eras. It is visited by many pilgrims, and boasts a high status.
Saidaiji Temple has strict discipline, and drinking alcohol is prohibited. So instead of "sake parties," they held "tea parties," with banquets while drinking Japanese tea. That tradition has been handed down, and today tea is served to pilgrims in the "Great Tea Ceremony." But this is very different from a normal tea party. It is hard to lift the 40cm diameter tea cups which weigh 7kg. Some pilgrims even need help from people nearby to lift them to their mouths to drink tea, for a tea party surrounded by friendly laughing. Tea party ceremonies are held 3 times in the January, spring and fall. It is a seasonal tradition of Saidaiji Temple.
Address: 1-1-5 Saidaiji-Shibamachi, Nara City, Nara
Hours open to visitors: 8:30 to 16:30
Admission Fee: For the main hall: 400 yen (Adult)
Directions: 3 minute walk from Yamato Saidaiji Station on the Kintetsu Nara Line (50 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station)