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General
Museums
Temples
Japan 


Nara

Lying a mere 35km south of Kyoto, Nara takes the credit of being Japan’s first capital and generally viewed as the birthplace of Japanese civilisation. Up until 794AD this was Japan’s capital and many examples of the burdgeoning Buddhist faith of the time remain. Today it lists no fewer than 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites within its boundaries.

The advantage for the visitor is that many of the major sites of such a small city (by Japanese standards) of just 350,000 can easily be covered in a single day. However to see everything that the city has to offer you should really try to set aside at least two days if possible to fully appreciate its cultural legacy - second only to Kyoto.

Nara at its height was the far eastern point of the Silk Road and examples of Chinese Tang dynasty buildings sit alongside Korean and Middle Eastern relics of the era.

The best temples are Kofuku-ji (above) with its elegant 5-storey pagoda, Treasure House and Eastern Golden Hall (containing some of Japan’s foremost collections of Buddhist art), Shin-Yakushi-ji, the Kasuga Taisha Shrine and Todai-ji Temple itself. The great temple at Todai-ji is many peoples’ image of Nara with its vast Great Buddha Hall, Daibutsu-den, housing Japan’s largest bronze Buddha statue. Here also is the impressive southern gate - Nandai-mon, Kaindan-in ordination hall and the amazing 8th century wooden storehouse originally designed to hold the temples collection of treasures. Nowadays it is one of the oldest remaining wooden buildings in the world.

The park of Nara-koen lies at the northeastern corner of the city with its 1,200 tame deer acting as its emblem. It is a very pleasnt green expanse which acts to link many of the sites and temples. A fine collection of Buddhist statues remain here in the Kohuhokan and Tokon-do.

Nara-machi - the southern district of Nara retains some lovely traditional shops and buildings. Some small museums and excellent gocery stores can be found hereand it is well worth taking an afternoon to wander the streets.

Visit the Higashimuki and Sanjo-dori to take advantage of the huge range of traditional and western-style restaurants and snack-bars. [ Like all Japanese cities and regions Nara has its own distinctive specialties]

 

 
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