A Treasure Trove of National Cultural Sites! Five World Heritage Sites to Visit in Nara

A Treasure Trove of National Cultural Sites! Five World Heritage Sites to Visit in Nara

1 Feb 2020

The KANSAI Guide

The ancient capital Nara boasts a very long history. The prefecture includes three World Cultural Heritage Sites and 16 registered locations of national importance in total. Locations listed in the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara site can be found all around the center of Nara City! This article carefully picks out five of these sites to introduce to you.

1. Todai-ji

"Todai-ji is known throughout the world for holding the world’s largest copper statue of Buddha. When, in the middle of the 8th century, the Emperor decided to protect the country with the power of Buddhism and established temples throughout the country, Todai-ji was the temple placed at the center. The Buddha statue is seated in the Daibutsu-den, one of the largest wooden structures in the world, and its figure can only be described as breathtaking. The proportions are overwhelming - a height of 15m and circumference of 70m - so you must go see it for yourself! Nara Park, where the temple is located, is well-known for its deer: on your way back, stop at a stand, buy some deer biscuits, and feed them to some of the deer!
Todai-ji is 15 minutes from Nara Station by bus and on foot."

【Facility name】 Todai-ji
【Opening hours】
[April - October] Daibutsu-den, Hokke-do (Sangetsudo), Kaidan-do: 7:30 am - 5:30 pm; Todai-ji Museum 9:30 am - 5:30 pm (last entry 5:00 pm)
[November - March] Daibutsu-den, Hokke-do (Sangetsudo), Kaidan-do: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm; Todai-ji Museum 9:30 am - 5:00 pm (last entry 4:30 pm)

【Days Closed】 None
【Price】
Entrance fee (for each of Daibutsu-den, Hokke-do, Kaidan-do, and Todai-ji Museum):
Adults, middle and high school students: 600 JPY
Elementary school students: 300 JPY
【URL】 Official website
【Address】 406-1 Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi, Nara
Google Map

2. Kasuga Taisha

With a distinctive vermillion lacquered design, the Kasuga Taisha shrine was constructed to protect Heijo-kyo (what Nara was called while it was the capital) and so that people could pray for prosperity. Its Kokuho-den ("Hall of National Treasure," also called the Kasuga-taisha Museum) contains some 1,320 items of national cultural significance. Behind the shrine you can find the Kasuga-yama Primeval Forest, which has been protected through the centuries and still maintains of air of ancient times. The Shrine is also known for its wisteria plants, so make sure to visit when they are in full bloom, between the end of April and beginning of May! Kasuga Taisha is 20 minutes from Nara Station by bus and walking.

【Facility name】 Kasuga Taisha
【Opening hours】
March - October: 6:30 am - 5:30 pm、November-February: 7:00 am - 5:00 pm
Special admission to the front of the Main Sanctuary: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Meoto Daikokusha: 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Kasugataisha Museum: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm (Entry by 4:30 pm)
Botanical Garden: March - November] 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (Entry by 4:30 pm), [December-February] 9:00 am - 4:30 pm (Entry by 4:00 pm)
【Days Closed】 None
【Price】
Special admission to the front of the Main Sanctuary: 500 JPY
Kasugataisha Museum: Adults 500 JPY, High-school and university students 300 JPY, Elementary- and middle-schoolers 200 JPY
Man’yo Botanical Garden: Adults 500 JPY, Children 250 JPY
【URL】 [Official website

【Address】 160 Kasugano-cho, Nara-shi, Nara
Google Map

3. Yakushi-ji

The Yakushi-ji temple has a distinctive and splendid layout, with the main hall and lecture hall in the center and two three-storied pagodas (the West Pagoda and East Pagoda) standing at the sides. Starting with the vibrantly-colored West Tower, most of the buildings in the complex have been rebuilt, but the East Tower has managed to escape fire damage and remains in its original shape. The Miroku Triad statues, which have been referred to as the world’s most beautiful Buddhist statues, have been preserved since their initial construction. It represents one of the greatest achievements of Buddhism in Japan. The temple is about 15 minutes by train from Kintetsu-Nara Station.

【Facility name】 Yakushi-ji
【Opening hours】 8:30 am - 5:00 pm (Enter by 4:30 pm)
【Days Closed】 None
【Price】
1/1-1/8, 3/1-6/30, 8/13-8/15, 9/16-11/30 (Places open to visitors: Main Hall, Great Lecture Hall, East Hall, Genjo Sanzoin Garan)
Adults 1,100 JPY, Middle- and high-school students 700 JPY, Elementary-school students 300 JPY
Other times (Open to visitors: Main Hall, Great Lecture Hall, East Hall)
Adults 800 JPY, Middle- and high-school students 500 JPY, Elementary-school students 200 JPY
【URL】
Official website Japanese only
The KANSAI Guide
【Address】 457 Nishinokyo-cho, Nara-shi, Nara
Google Map

4. Kofuku-ji

This temple borders Nara Park and is within walking distance of Kintetsu-Nara and JR Nara Stations. The premises is dotted with structures designated as National Treasures, such as the five-storied and three-storied pagodas, the East Golden Hall, and North Octogonal Hall. In 2018, when the Central Golden Hall was reconstructed for the first time in 300 years, gold foil was reattached, the sitting statue of the Shaka Nyorai was refurbished, and other Buddhist images were installed. The sight of the five-storied pagoda in the background of Nara Park’s Sarasawa Pond is one to behold and definitely to preserve! On your way back, why not take a stroll through the Nara-machi area? The neighborhood has a refined air, and there are numerous cute cafes and general stores to drop by!

【Facility name】 Kofuku-ji
【Opening hours】 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (Last entry 4:45 pm)
【Days Closed】 None
【Price】
The Kofukuji National Treasure Hall: Adults and university students 700 JPY, Middle- and high-school students 600 JPY, Elementary-school students 300 JPY
Eastern Golden Hall: Adults and university students 300 JPY, Middle- and high-school students 200 JPY, Elementary-school students 100 JPY
Central Golden Hall: Adults and university students 500 JPY, Middle- and high-school students 300 JPY, Elementary-school students 100 JPY
【URL】
Official website
【Address】 48 Noborioji-cho, Nara-shi, Nara
Google Map

5. Toshodai-ji

This temple was constructed in 759 by a high priest from the Tang Dynasty, who was invited to Japan by the Emperor following his troubles in China. The temple site includes numerous halls who’ve retained their structure from their initial construction, including the Golden Hall, Lecture Hall, Koro, and Treasure House, all designated as National Treasures of Japan. There are also numerous Buddhist structures that have been designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. Just gazing at the sitting statue of the Rushana Buddha or the standing statue of the thousand-armed Goddess of Mercy inspires a sense of austerity and solemnity. The temple is 20 minutes from Kintetsu-Nara Station by bus.

【Facility name】 Toshodaiji
【Opening hours】 8:30 am - 5:00 pm (Enter by 4:30 pm)
【Days Closed】 None
【Price】
Admission fee: adults and university students 600 JPY, middle and high school students 600 JPY, Elementary school students 200 JPY
【URL】
Official website
【Address】 13-46 Gojo-cho, Nara-shi, Nara
Google Map

If you ever visit Nara, make sure to use this article as a guide for going through its World Heritage Sites!

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