Home > Japan In-depth > Scenic Beauty > World Heritage Sites in Japan

World Heritage Sites in Japan

Scenic Beauty

Japan In-depth

The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

Nara first developed after being designated the capital in 710.
The Great Buddha of Todaiji - a symbol of the ancient capital of Japan

Nara prefecture

The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara refer to the ruins, 6 temples and 8 primeval forests in the Nara City area.

The central monument is the Heijokyo-ato (Imperial Palace), the site of a royal palace in the present-day city of Nara. This is where the emperor resided and various government offices were located when Heijokyo of Nara was designated the capital in 710. After the capital was transferred to Heiankyo (present-day Kyoto) in 794, Heijokyo was temporarily turned over for use as farmland; after, however, influential temples and shrines including Kofukuji and Todaiji were erected and the area was again developed as "a capital of temples and shrines". The palace site was discovered in 1889. The "Sujakumon Gate" (reconstructed in 1998) and the gardens were reconstructed based on the results of excavation while preserving the spacious heath, and activities are promoted to conserve the ancient image. A reference library was also established here, where you will learn about the excavations and research that are always in progress in the area.

The "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara" include 6 temples: Todaiji, Kasuga-Taisha, Kofukuji, Yakushiji, Toshodaiji and Gangouji. Todaiji is a noteworthy example, visited by Japanese students on school trips and tourists from all over the world. This temple was built by order of Emperor Shomu (ruling from 724 to 749) in order to protect the country. The 14.7-meter-high Great Buddha in the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) symbolizes Nara, and his pose of holding up the palm of his right hand to the front while placing his left hand on his knee with the palm upwards means that he gives strength to the people with his right hand while promising to grant their wishes with his left. The main body of the Buddha has been repaired many times over the years, but the lotus petal part used as the foundation and both legs are as they were when first made. The building, reconstructed in the Edo era, is the largest-scale ancient wooden building in the world.

In addition to these wonderful things, each temple has many cultural assets designated as national treasures such as the Toutou (East Pagoda) of Yakushiji, the statue of Ganjinwajo in Toshodaiji, the Honden (Main Sanctuary) of Kasuga Taisha and the Tokondo (East Main Hall) and Goju-no-tou (Five-storied Pagoda) of Kofukuji, so there is no shortage of places to visit in a day. By the way, the "Kasugayama Primeval Forest" conserved by the unique Japanese belief in God and their view of nature, has also been registered as a world heritage site.

Northern Nara City, Nara prefecture

*Photo (C) Nara City Tourist Association
Photographer:Tatehiko Yano

Directions

Heijokyo-ato: Short walk from the Heijokyo-ato bus stop. The Heijokyo-ato bus stop is approx. 8 minutes from the Yamato-Saidaiji station on the Kintetsu Nara Line taking the Nara Kotsu bus (to the Kintetsu Nara station); the Yamato-Saidaiji station is approx. 15 minutes from the Kintetsu Nara station.

 

Todai-ji Temple: Approx. 5-minute walk from the Daibutsuden Kasuga Taisha Mae bus stop The Daibutsuden Kasuga Taisha Mae bus stop is approx. 5 minutes from the Kintetsu Nara station on the Nara Kotsu city loop bus

 

Kasuga Taisha Shrine: Approx. 5 minutes walk from the Kasuga Taisha Omotesando bus stop The Kasuga Taisha Omotesando bus stop is approx. 7 minutes from the Kintetsu Nara station taking the Nara Kotsu bus (to Kasuga Taisha Honden)

 

Kofuku-ji Temple: Approx. 5-minute walk from the Kintetsu Nara station.

 

Yakushi-ji Temple: A short walk from the Kintetsu Nishinokyo station. The Kintetsu Nishinokyo station is approx. 10 minutes from the Kintetsu Nara station.

 

Toshodai-ji Temple: Approx. 10-minute walk from the Kintetsu Nishinokyo station. The Kintetsu Nishinokyo station is approx. 10 minutes from the Kintetsu Nara station.

 

Genko-ji Temple: Approx. 15-minute walk from the Kintetsu Nara station.

 

Kasugayama Primeval Forest: Approx. 15 minutes by car from Wakakusayama Iriguchi (entrance) of the Nara Okuyama Driveway