Comfort Hotel Nara
Phone: (81) 742 25 3211
Fax: (81) 742 25 3212
Formerly called the Hokoji, it is known as Japan's first Buddhist temple. It was removed to this site from Asuka in 718. One of Nara's seven great temples, Gango-ji was noted for its mandala which Priest Chiko painted, its roof tiles dating back to the Asuka era [645-710], as well as its national treasure, the main hall of the Gokuraku-bo, redone in 1244.
Formerly an annex to Gango-ji, Jurin-in was established in the early 8th century under the supervision of Nakai Asano to fulfill the wishes of Empress Gensho. Its small stone shrine houses both a Jizo and Gautama Buddhist statues and has been named an important cultural property. Also noteworthy is its national treasure, the main hall, which was built during the Kamakura period.
Formerly the Umayasaka-dera, this "temple for giving happiness" was removed from Heijo-kyo in 710 A.D. It is dedicated to Fubito Fujiwara, and is widely known for the Nara icon, its pagoda, which was rebuilt in 1426. The daughter of Fubito and Emperor Shomu's wife, Komyo, are believed to have backed the pagoda. Major structures in the expansive complex include: the Tokon-do(East Main Hall), Chukon-do, Okon-do, Hokuen-do, Oyu-ya, Ohmi-do and the Nan-en-do. Its long history is dotted with fires and political intrigues. The Kokuho-kan(national treasure exhibition hall) is home to an impressive body of Buddhist art. Open daily 9 am onwards.
From 710 to 784, Nara was the capital of Japan. During this period, the city truly flourished and became extremely prosperous. The temples, palaces and shrines throw a light on the social, political and cultural life in the 8th century Nara. Influenced by links with China and Korea, the architecture, town-planning, religious life and practices show elements of Chinese geomantic principles and emulated Chinese examples like Chang'an. Nara was abandoned as the imperial capital for the newer Heian(kyoto).The temples, shrines and palaces were still revered and cared for and slowly newer settlements developed around them. Around the temples of Todai-ji, Kofuku-ji and Kasuga Taisha prospereous developments came up and in the 16th century the modern city of Nara developed here. Places to visit include the Nara Palace, Kasugayama Primeval Forest, Kasuga-Taisha and Toshodai-ji.
Located near Hannya-ji, Futai-ji is known for its flowers which include irises, chrysanthemums, camellias, golden bells, and hagi (Japanese bush clover). In 847 this temple was established by Narihira Ariwara, who is well known as a poet in the classic style. He was also a sculptor and carved a bodhisattva familiarly called "Sho-Kannon," usually referred to as the goddess of mercy. Narihira believed that the truth would help to provide salvation even for commoners. He preached that "Horin-o tenjite shirizokazu." From this phrase comes the formal name of the temple Futaiten-Horinji.
The legacy of the Great Buddha and the Todai-ji itself are reflections of Japan's admiration of the T'ang dynasty. During the Nara era, the state used Buddhism to make a power statement. The Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsu-den) is renowned as the world's biggest wooden building, and the Buddha statue is known to be the world's biggest bronze statue of the great sage. Emperor Shomu attended an opening ceremony in 752 (before gold was put on the Buddha), although another thirty years were spent to complete all the structures in the sprawling temple complex. Todai-ji was twice the victim of major fires and therefore the extant buildings date to 1692.
In 747 Empress Komyo had this temple built to help heal her ailing husband, Emperor Shomu. Unfortunately, by the end of the Nara era only the main hall had escaped damage by fire. National treasure status has been given to the temple's collection of 12 Yakushi (who guard the medicinal Buddha), together with the main hall itself, an example of aesthetically pleasing architecture in the Tempyo style.
The core of the shrine's artifacts is regalia from both the Kasuga Wakamiya Taisha and the clan shrine of the Fujiwaras, the Kasuga Taisha. The holdings include 12th century dance masks for Bugaku, armor (one Heian sword and a few from Kamakura), a donation from Emperor Godaigo, a Tang dynasty mirror a pair of enormous lacquer drums, and a vanity set lacquered in black dating to the 12th century. Various imperial archival materials relating to the Fujiwaras and the Tokugawas complement the collection.
Nested against Mt. Takamado's western slope, is a temple whose five-colored camellias are so unusual that the area has been named a national monument. Byakugo-ji is also famous for its white and red bush clover, hagi. Bright flashes in paradise are represented symbolically by emanation from the white cilia markings called "byakugo" on the Buddha's forehead. The temple has a Nara period Amida, as well as an excellent statue, the central figure of worship, the Hell King, Yama. In the 8th century the precincts of Byakugo-ji belonged to an imperial prince.
This lovely temple, the headquarters of Buddhism's Ritsu sect was established in 759 AD by Ganjin, the famous priest of the Tang dynasty era. The shodai in the name connotes a place for Buddhist teaching shared with an enlightened human, Saint Ganjin. As a reward for not returning to his home in China, Emperor Shomu gave a land grant to Ganjin. The many buildings in the complex have characteristic Tempyo-style tiled roofs. In the Kaisando is a well-known statue of Ganjin by one of his disciples, which dates to 763 AD.
The building of Yakushi-ji was ordered by Emperor Temmu as supplication for his ailing Empress in 680. When he passed away in 698, it was not yet finished. It is not clear whether it was removed to its present location, after the capital at Nara was established, but one date of 718 is possible. Sadly, the pagoda on the eastern side is the only extant structure (finished in 730) which dates to the Nara period. It is noted for that peculiarly Japanese fondness for asymmetrical architecture.
Established in 756 by Koro, believed to be one of the Chinese priests who accompanied Ganjin back to Japan, Enjo-ji is a prominent temple on the Yagyu Road. The garden (Jodo sect style) was landscaped during the Fujiwara era, the pond representing Kannon's paradise in the south. In the Main Hall is an 1196 sculpture of Dainichi done by Unkei, a seated Amida dating to the Heian period and Kamakura period statues of the Four Heavenly Kings. Also noteworthy are two national treasures, Kasugado and the Hakusando, both Shinto shrines which were added in 1228.