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Japan Regional Information

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Nara

An ancient capital of excellent old architectures and images of Buddha - Horyu-ji Temple, the World Cultural Heritage Site
Nara prefecture is situated in the central west of the Japanese mainland. The capital was placed in the Asuka region, a southern part of Nara Basin in the northwestern part of the prefecture, as the first of unified Japan in the mid 4th century, and until the end of the 8th century Asuka prospered as the center of Japanese politics and economy. Later, the capital was moved to Heijyo-kyo, the current Nara City. Under the protection of the Imperial family and aristocrats, temples and shrines such as Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden architecture in the world that enshrines Japan's largest Buddha, Yakushi-ji Temple that has excellent old architectures and images of Buddha, and Toshodai-ji Temple were built. Thus Heijyo-kyo developed as a temple town.

Horyu-ji Temple in Ikaruga Town, which is said to have been built in the early 7th century, is known as the oldest existing Buddhist temple. There are world's oldest wooden architectures as well as many paintings and sculptures in its possession, and the Temple is also registered as the World Cultural Heritage Site. Tourists visit this prefecture throughout the year to see scenic spots such as Mt. Yoshino-yama known to have the most beautiful cherry trees, and Nara Park that has friendly deer that has been considered familiar spirit and treasured.

Getting there
About 2 hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, and about 39 minutes from Kyoto Station to Kintetsu Nara Station by Kintetsu Line. About 39 minutes from Kintetsu Nanba Station to Kintetsu Nara Station by Kintetsu Nanba-Nara Line.
 

  • Asuka
    A rural area dotted with many historic and culturally important sites - A tour to various historic spots along the country road decorated with spring or autumn flowers
    Asuka is the area in the wide southern part of the Yamato Basin in Nara. As early as the 5th to 6th century, the area was developed as a vital transport center, and around the 8th century the capital city was built here. Old burial mounds and historic sites of cultural importance are scattered in the calm and tranquil rural scenery. Indeed, Asuka is the spiritual hometown of the Japanese mind.

    Here in Asuka, there is a huge stone stage mound built from a block of stone measuring 7.5 m long, 3 m wide and 7.7 m tall and weighing about 72 tons, the largest of this kind in Japan. It is known as a cave-type stone chamber. It is widely believed that the chamber was dedicated to Sogano Umako, a man of power in the 6th century, as his tomb. Another spot to visit in Asuka is the old Takamatsuzuka-kofun burial mound, which was excavated in 1972, and then it became widely well-known. The mound itself is as small as 18 m in diameter and 5 m in height, but you will certainly be enchanted by the newly discovered wall paintings of the Four Gods, the Women's Group and constellations all in full color.

    There are quite a few remnants of old temples and architecture, including those of the Asuka-ji Temple which was initiated by Sogano Umako in the 6th century and built by craftsmen, including those invited from Kudara country in the Korean Peninsula. We often say that the Asuka area itself is floating on the remnants. Those road-side flowers, Chinese milk vetch (renge-so) in the spring and lycoris radiate (higan-bana) in the autumn, add the final touch to the rural scenery. Many people enjoy a tour of the old remains riding on rent-a-cycles.

    Getting there
    Two hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, then 1 hour 15 minute ride from Kyoto to Kashihara-Jingumae Station by Kintetsu Line and 4 minutes from Kashihara-Jingumae to Asuka by the same line. Forty-six minutes from Osaka Abenobashi Staion to Asuka Station by the same line.

     

  • Hase-dera Temple
    Ten meter tall, shiny gold Kan'non statue with eleven faces, the object of worship for noblewomen and ladies-in-waiting at court
    The Hase-dera Temple, located along the Hatsuse-gawa River in the north of Nara, is a center of the Buzan School of the Shingonshu Buddism. It is believed that this temple was founded by a priest Tokudo Shonin who enshrined Jyuichimen-kan'non or an eleven faced Kan'non(Goddess of Mercy) statue by the order of the emperor in the 8th century. The Kan'non worship became widely favored after the 9th century, and many noblemen and ladies-in-waiting at the imperial court in Kyoto came to worship this temple.

    The main sanctuary was built in the mid 17th century, and it is one of the largest wooden structures in Nara. You will feel the atmosphere of the olden days from the bell tower and the principle image of the 10 m tall golden Kan'non statue with eleven faces. A five-story pagoda was built, and the Niomon gate with two guardian gods, was reconstructed in the 20th century.

    Some 7,000 Chinese peonies are planted on both sides of the corridor to the main shrine. The large-flowered peonies bloom beautifully from late April to early May to welcome the visitors. The statue of Tokudo Shonin rests in the Hoki-in Temple which is believed to have been his retirement home. It has a 13-layer mausoleum tower, and a Shonin's stepstone which is believed to make your wishes come true by touching it.

    Getting there
    Take JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line for 2 hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station, then take Kintetsu Line for 55 minutes from Kyoto Station to Hasedera Station. From Osaka, take Kintetsu Line for 45 minutes from Kamihon-cho Station (in Osaka) to Hasedera Station.


     

  • Heijokyu-seki
    Political, economic and cultural center of the 8th century Japan that tells the ancient capital to the present day
    Located in the northern part of Nara, the whole area of Heijokyu-seki has been preserved as Special Historic Site. In 710 A. D., the capital was moved from Fujiwarakyo, at the center of Nara, to Heijokyo which prospered as a political, economic and cultural center of Japan for over 70 years. It is the first historical site in Japan to be designated the World Cultural Heritage. Heijyokyu Palace was the center of the capital city and it consisted of Dairi, the residence of the Emperor, Daigoku-den, a hall for every national ceremonies and Chodo-in, the bureaucratic offices.

    The main street, Suzaku-oju, ran as long as four kilometers and 75 meters wide from Rashomon Gate at the southern end, with ditches which were dug on both sides of this magnificent street. With 7 meters wide moats on both sides, the Suzaku-oji has been restored in 1998 together with SuzakuGate. This thickly red-painted gate is now opened to public from Tuesday to Sunday, thus visitors are able to pass through the gate. Artifacts from the excavation are exhibited in Heijokyu-seki Shiryo-kan Museum located in the northwest of the site.

    Getting there
    From Tokyo Station, take Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Kyoto Station and change to Kintetsu Line Yamato-saidai-ji Station, 2 hours 45 minutes. From Osaka-Abenobashi Station, 40 minutes by Kintetsu Line to Yamato-saidai-ji Station. Ten minutes by bus from Yamato-saidai-ji Station to Heijokyu-seki bus stop.

     

  • Horyu-ji Temple
    The world's oldest wooden structures registered as the World Cultural Heritage
    The Horyu-ji Temple is also called the Ikaruga Temple as it is located at Ikaruga Town, Ikoma County in the northwestern part of Nara. It is designated as the World Cultural Heritage as the world's oldest existing wooden structure, founded by Prince Shotoku-taishi, a son of Emperor Yomei, to dedicate to his father in the early 7th century. It has been burned down once, but was reconstructed by the early 8th century. It has pillars with swollen middle, in the style called the entasis. Since this style is also employed in the pantheons of Greece, it is also a precious structure in the cultural propagation history as well as the architectural history. Thus it has been supposedly passed down from Caspian Coast area to the Asian Continent through the Silk Road.

    There is the Nandaimon Gate building at the center of the approach way, and the Chumon middle gate building beyond it. Corridors extend to the east and west of the Chumon, which turn to the north. Surrounded by these corridors are the Kondo golden shrine in the east and a five-story tower in the west.

    The lower part of the Kondo was burned during an overhaul work in the mid 20th century, when the murals estimated to have been drawn in the 8th century were lost in the flames. The murals were restored by reproduction of the originals later. The reproduced murals are now completed on the walls, and the original state of the Kondo has been completely restored.

    Getting there
    Take JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line for 2 hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station, then take JR Nara Line for 45 minutes from Kyoto Station to Nara Station. Take a Nara Kotsu bus for 40 minutes from Nara Station to Horyu-ji. From Osaka, take JR Kansai Honsen for 40 minutes from Osaka Station to Horyu-ji Station.

     

  • Mt. Ikoma-san
    A temple for the populace where wishes are granted for a thriving business - A scenic night view of Osaka looking down from the top of the drive way on Mt. Ikoma-san
    Mt. Ikoma-san is located in the northwest part of Nara, separating Nara and Osaka, and belongs to the Kongo-Ikoma Quasi-National Park. Extending from north to south, it has been criss-crossed by many pass-ways and roads, connecting Osaka and Yamato, since olden times. Materials and culture flew along these routes. Halfway up the mountain is Hozan-ji Temple, commonly known as Shoten-san of Mt. Ikoma-san. The temple was founded in the 17th century, in the hope that businesses would thrive. In the precincts of the temple, which stands in front of the Han'nya-kutsu caves, there is quite a lot of structures such as the main hall, the Taho-to treasure tower and the occidental style Shishi-kaku (the Lion Pavilion), decorated with stained glass.

    The Shinki-Ikoma Skyline Drive is a pleasant motorway that provides you with very enjoyable driving. Every time your car turns the corner on the winding road, you can enjoy superb views of Osaka and the Yamato Basin in the distance on the left or on the right alternatively. In particular, the view from the Narukawa-toge Pass, just about midway along the road, is magnificent, especially at night. Cherry blossoms and azaleas in the spring and maples and autumn leaves in the fall are extremely popular among many visitors. Also, a hiking route is well set out alongside the motorway. At the eastern foot of the mountain the Ikoma-Taisha Shrine is located, dedicated to the God of Fire, and at the south-eastern foot, Enpuku-ji Temple is situated, in which main hall enshrines three saints of Amithaba. Two of the Houkyo-into Pagoda towers are also famous.

    Getting there
    About 2 hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, then about 50 minutes from Kyoto Station to Ikoma Station by Kintetsu Line. Alternatively, about 20 minutes from Kintetsu-Namba Station to Ikoma Station by Kintetsu Line.

     

  • Mt. Shigi-san
    Chogoson-ji Temple worshipping Bishamonten or Vaishravana - Daruma-dera Temple worshipping Daruma-taishi or Boddhidharma
    Mt. Shigi-san, 437 meters in elevation, is located at the southern end of the Ikoma Mountains lying in the northwest of Nara. In the middle of the mountains is Chogosonshi-ji Temple, usually referred to as "Shigisan" or "Shigi-no-bishamon-san".

    In the 7th century, Prince Shotoku-taishi, the son of Emperor Yomei, was deeply devoted to Buddhism and dedicated this temple to Bishamonten or Vaishravana, the guardian god of treasures that appeared at the hour of tiger on the day of tiger in the year of tiger. The big sculpture of a tiger on the path attracts the attention of visitors. Reiho-kan, standing next to the Hondo, or Oratory, holds the National Treasure, Shigisan-engi-emaki Painted Scroll, that is exhibited to the public every fall.

    O-ji Temple is situated at the entrance to the climbing route at the foot of the south-eastern part of Mt. Shigi-san. Rare in Nara, there is a Zen temple, Daruma-dera Temple dedicated to the founder of the Zen sect, Daruma-taishi, or Boddhidharma. It is said that the sick traveler whom Prince Shotoku-taishi treated was the incarnation of Boddhidharma and the temple was erected to commemorate him. Temple treasure includes a wooden sculpture of the sitting Boddhidharma and of Prince Shotoku-taishi, and Kenpon-chakushoku-nehan-zo. The ancient temple of Hoko-ji Temple in the vicinity has Avalokiteshvra Ekadashamukha, or the Kan'non(Goddess of Mercy) with Eleven Faces, as the principal Buddha.

    Getting there
    From Tokyo Station, 2 hours 15 minutes by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Kyoto Station. From Kyoto Station to Ikoma Station, 1 hour by Kintetsu Line, from Osaka Station, 30 minutes. From Ikoma Station, 25 minutes to Shigi-san-shita Station by Kintetsu-ikoma Line. Take Nara-Kotsu bus from the Station, 10 minutes to Mt. Shigi-san.

     

  • Muro-ji Temple
    "Nyonin-Koya" or Koya-san for Women, worshipped by women - The smallest five-storied pagoda in Japan, 16 meters high
    Muro-ji Temple is located in the village of Muro-ji-mura in the north-east of Nara. It was erected in the end of 8th century on a steep slope to the north of Muro-gawa River. It is said that a Buddhist monk, Kenkyo, practiced religious austerities to pray for the recovery of the Crown Prince. His disciple, Shuen, made the plan of the temple. In contrast to Koya-san Kongobu-ji Temple in Wakayama, erected by Buddhist monk Kukai in the early 9th century, which prohibited the entrance of women to the temple, Muro-ji Temple of the same sect allowed women to visit, thus it was much worshipped by women and it was called "Nyonin-Koya" or Koya-san for Women. Many sculptures are displayed in the Hondo, or Oratory. The principle Buddha of the temple is Buddha Shakyamuni, a national treasure. There are also sculptures of Avalokiteshvra Ekadashamukha, or Kan'non(Goddess of Mercy) with Eleven Faces, and Yakushi-nyorai, Nyoirin-Kan'non and in Miroku-do, there is sculpture of sitting the Buddha Shakyamuni. Many other buildings are scattered around the mountain.

    Another national treasure, the five-storied pagoda, measures 16 meters in height and is the smallest of all outdoor pagodas in Japan. It was badly damaged by a typhoon in 1998, but it has been completely reconstructed and visitors can see the original form. In Muro-ji Temple, pale pink rhododendron flowers of as many as 3,000 roots bloom from early April to May. Thus the temple is popular, and is called the temple of flower.

    Getting there
    From Tokyo Station, 2 hours 15 minutes by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Kyoto Station. From Kyoto Station, 1 hour 20 minutes by Kintetsu Line to Muro-guchi-ono- Station. By Kintetsu line, from Kami-honcho Station to Muro-guchi-ono Station, 1 hour. From Muro-guchi-ono Station, take bus to Muro-ji-mae, 20 minutes.

     

  • Nara-machi (Gango-ji Temple)
    Gokuraku-do, which was rebuilt and renovated from a monks' dormitory - Nara-machi houses with beautiful white stucco walls and wooden latticeworks lined up one after another
    It is said that Gangou-ji Temple, which is located to the south of the Sarusawa-no-ike Pond and which is also known as Gokuraku-bo, was founded in the early 8th century by transferring Asuka-dera Temple, which was assumed to be the oldest temple in this country, from Asuka to Heijo-kyo Palace.

    The temple has been one time at its peak when it has been considered to be one of the seven largest temples in Nara, but it caught fire twice, in the 15th and 19th centuries, when everything was lost but the remains of the East Great Pagoda and West Minor Pagoda, Gokuraku-bo consisting of Gokuraku-do and the Zen Hall, which reminds us of the initial setting of the temple when it was founded some 1,100 years ago. Gokuraku-bo, which is registered as a national treasure, used to be the monks' dormitory but has now been renovated as a temple. It is significant for its 13th century architecture and the roof tiles, which show a strong influence of the Kudara architecture of the Korean Peninsula.

    The area which was one time the precincts of Gangou-ji Temple is called Nara-machi, and still preserves the atmosphere of an old 17th to 19th century town. The town was rebuilt in the precincts after the great fire of the temple. The towns and streets of Nara-machi feature white stucco walls and wooden lattice windows, which provide a warm impression of daily town life to the visitor. Shops and tearooms in calm and pleasant surroundings utilizing traditional houses are popular, giving a good contrast to the great temples and old burial mounds.

    Getting there
    About 2 hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, then about 40 minutes from Kyoto Station to Kintetsu-Nara Station by Express Train on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. About 35 minutes from Kintetsu-Namba Station to Kintetsu-Nara Station of Kintetsu Namba-Nara Line.

     

  • Nara Park (Mt. Kasuga-yama)
    The virgin forests, registered as the World Cultural Heritage Site - Kasuga-taisha Shrine of which the red-painted corridors are reflected among the rich green trees
    Mt. Kasuga-yama is located in the northern part of Nara. In the middle of the 9th century, the shrine ordered a decree forbidding lumber cutting, and this has resulted in the preservation of the virgin forests. Now the scenery of the shrine and the forests has been registered as the World Cultural Heritage Site. At the western foot of Mt. Kasuga-yama is located Kasuga-taisha Shrine, which was originally dedicated to the local aristocrats, the Fujiwaras, and now serves as the headquarters of branch shrines spreading all over the country. The shrine, famed as one of the country's three major shrines after Ise-jingu Shrine and Iwashimizu-Hachimangu Shrine, is proud of its Kasuga style architecture in which four identical main halls are situated side by side.

    The red-painted corridors surrounding the main halls, matched with the rich and deep surrounding clump, together with the hanging bronze lanterns under the eaves, create a sacred and peaceful atmosphere.

    On February 3, the day of Setsubun(the Coming of Spring) and during the Bon-festival(or O-bon, the feast for ancesters) from August 14-15, the traditional Festival of Lanterns takes place every year, in which all 2,000 pedestal-style stone lanterns and 1,000 lanterns hanging from the eaves are lit at night, which enchant the visitors and worshippers. Wakamiya Shrine, a subordinate shrine of Kasuga-taisha, is located at the south end of the main hall and every winter On-matsuri Festival of Kasuga Wakamiya Shrine takes place on a large scale.

    Getting there
    Two hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line. Thirty-nine minutes from Kyoto Station to Kintetsu Nara Station by Kintetsu Line, or 34 minutes from Kintetsu Namba Station to Kintetsu Nara Station. Ten minutes by bus from Nara Station to Kasuga-taisha main hall.

     

  • Nara Park (Kofuku-ji Temple and the Sarusawa-no-ike Pond)
    Tokon-do, a place to pray for good academic achievement - A fantastic view of the Five-story Pagoda of Kofuku-ji Temple, as seen beyond the Sarusawa-no-ike Pond
    At the beginning of the 8th century, a powerful family of the time, the Fujiwaras, founded Kofuku-ji Temple, located inside Nara Park. At its peak, the precincts were said to be as large as 50 square km (about 32 square miles), but nowadays it is in the reasonable range of 4 square km (2.5 square miles). The approximately 50 m (150 ft.) high Five-story Pagoda of Kofuku-ji Temple is the second tallest tower in this country after To-ji's Pagoda in Kyoto City. The Pagoda is the landmark of the ancient capital, Nara.

    Since it was first built in the early 8th century, the Pagoda has caught fire 6 times in its long history. The present tower is registered as a national treasure and was rebuilt in 1426. The Tokon-do Hall adjoining the tower has also been registered as a national treasure as old architecture of the early 15th century. Inside the hall are enshrined the images of Monju-bosatsu, the copper clad Physician of Souls and Bodhisattva of wisdom and intellect. Thus there are numberless visitors praying for a better academic achievement.

    For a variety of the 8th century sculptures and many other temple treasures, the National Treasure Museum is another place that visitors should not miss.

    Sarusawa-no-ike Pond is founded by Kofuku-ji Temple, where captured fish were released. Surrounded by willow trees, if you walk around the 360 m promenade circling the pond, you will see many carp and tortoises in the water. The views of Kofuku-ji temple seen over the Sarusawa-no-ike, such as rich green trees with the pagoda tower and a water fountain in the pond with an elegant shape of the pagoda reflected in the water, represents the popular scenery of Nara.

    Getting there
    About 2 hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, then about 40 minutes from Kyoto Station to Kintetsu-Nara Station by Express Train on the Kintetsu Kyoto line. About 35 minutes from Kintetsu-Namba Station to Kintetsu-Nara Station by Rapid Train on the Kintetsu Namba-Nara line.

     

  • Nara Park (Todai-ji Temple)
    The large temple roofs and pagoda towers are seen through the trees - A great Buddha more than 15 meters tall inside the world largest wooden structure
    Nara Park is located in the eastern part of Nara City, extending about 4 km to the east and west, and about 2 km to the south and north. On the spacious lawns many deer graze on the grass. Inside the park are located Todai-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji Temple, Kasuga-Taisha Shrine and many others that represent the glories of the city over many centuries. Small streams, ponds and moats add charm to the scenery. A scene of great temple roofs and the tips of pagodas seen through the trees is a never-forgotten memory of your journey to Nara.Throughout the year, the stream of visitors to Nara is never interrupted.

    Emperor Shomu founded Todai-ji Temple, a World Cultural Heritage, in 728 as a head temple ruling the other 68 Kokubun-ji temples (branch temples) scattered throughout the country. Todai-ji Temple was originally called the great temple in the east of the capital city, the Heijo-kyu Palace.

    Inside the world's largest wooden structure of 57 m in width and 50 m in depth is enshrined a 15 m tall image of the great Buddha. In the precincts of the temple there are many interesting spots including the Nan-daimon (the Great Southern Gate), in which you can see two images of King Deva which are taller than 8 m, the Nigatsu-do Hall, which is surrounded by a corridor like a stage overlooking the Great Buddha Hall and the city of Nara, the Sangatsu-do Hall, the oldest structure of Todai-ji Temple, in which you can see artistic sculptures of the 8th century and many others. Going up to the top of Mt. Wakakusa-yama, 342 m above sea level, is good exercise that you can easily take inside the city. From the hilltop, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of Mt. Ikoma-san and three famous mountains of the Yamato province.

    Getting there
    Two hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, then 40 minutes from Kyoto Station to Kintetsu-Nara Station by Express Train on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. Thirty-five minutes from Kintetsu-Namba Station to Kintetsu-Nara Station by Rapid Train on the Kintetsu Namba-Nara Line.

     

  • Nishi-no-Kyo
    The largest extant 8th century structure in the country to tell us about the culture of the ageThe grand "Dragon's Palace on Land"
    The region in the western part of Nara City is called Nishi-no-Kyo, which literally means the Western Capital, as it was located at the west of the ancient capital city, Heijo-kyo Palace. In this region, there are large-scale temples which were built in the Tempyo Period of the 8th century, such as Toshodai-ji Temple, Yakushi-ji Temple and Seidai-ji Temple.

    Toshodai-ji Temple was built by a Chinese priest, Ganjin, who was invited by Emperor Shomu in the 8th century but could only arrive in Japan after a long and hard 12 year journey to his destination. The temple consists of the Kon-do Hall, which is the largest existing 8th century structure in the country, the Lecture Hall (Ko-do), the Treasury (Ho-zo) and the Bell Tower (Ko-ro), which have all been well preserved in their original style and details to tell us about the culture of the age.

    Yakushi-ji Temple, adjoining Toshodai-ji, is the temple founded by Emperor Temmu in the 8th century, to pray for the Empress' recovery from illness. The magnificently decorated main hall (Garan) was at one time called "the Dragon's Palace on Land". The East Tower (To-Tou) in the precincts is the original structure, which has been preserved ever since its foundation and is the symbol of Nishi-no-Kyo. Saidai-ji Temple, founded in the late 8th century had boasted its vast scale until it has been repeatedly on fire, which now only remains the Main Hall and Aizen Hall. Strolling in the area, deeply submerged into the culture of the ancient days, will certainly give you a real refreshment.

    Getting there
    About 2 hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, then about 45 minute ride from Kyoto Station to Nishi-no-kyo Station by Kintetsu Line. Alternatively, about 45 minutes from Osaka Abenohashi Station to Nishi-no-kyo Station by Kintetsu Line.

     

  • Taima and Katsuragi
    A legendary Mandala (a Buddhist ideal world atlas) woven from lotus threads - The god who is generous enough to grant one's wish when spoken only in a word
    The Taima-Katsuragi area is situated at the eastern foot of the Nijo-Katsuragi-Kongo Mountain Range. Many old shrines and temples full of legends and Mt. Ktsuragi-yama add their inimitable touch to the rural scenery for the enjoyment of many hikers throughout the seasons.

    Taima-dera Temple is known to be founded in the middle of the 7th century, and is where you can see the legendary Mandala (a symbolic chart of paradise depicting the world of spiritual enlightenment with a variety of gods, goddesses and saints), woven by Princess Chujo-hime from lotus threads, and old architecture like the three-story pagoda which is believed to have been built in the 8th century. Sekko-ji Temple at the north end of Taima-dera Temple is known for its peony flowers. There are some 7,000 roots of 400 different kinds, and during the flower season from April to May the precincts are all filled with the crowd of visitors and worshippers.

    The Hitokotonushi Shrine at the southern foot of Mt. Ktsuragi-yama is revered as the god who grants wishes if spoken in a word. The lawn-covered hill near the top of 960 m Mt. Ktsuragi-yama is extremely famous for its azalea in the spring, in addition to the dogtooth violet in the early summer, pampas grass in the autumn and its snow covered scenery in the winter. From the view spot atop the mountain, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the Yamato's three mountains, the city of Osaka and as far as Awaji-shima Island, on a clear day.

    Getting there
    Two hours 30 minutes from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, then 20 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station to Ten'no-ji Station by subway. Forty-five minutes from Osaka-Abe-no-bashi Station to Taima-dera Station by Kintetsu Line. Thirty minutes to Shakutsuchi Station by Express Train. Eight minutes from Shakutsuchi Station to Kintetsu Gosho Station by Kintetsu Line. Seven minutes by bus from Gosho Station to Katsuragi Ropeway Station.

     

  • The Yamanobe Road
    The oldest road in the country, recorded in a historical book edited in the 8th century - An ideal hiking course, along with ancient burial mounds the remains of old temples.
    The Yamanobe Road extends through the Yamato Basin. The history book entitled "Nihon Shoki" (The Japan Almanac) which was compiled in the 8th century describes the road, which makes it the oldest recorded road in this country. The road is said to originally have connecting Nara and Sakurai, and the section of about 15 km between Isonokami and Sakurai is preserved as it was built some 1,100 years ago. At Isonokami in the central part of Tenri City, Isonokami-Jingu Shrine is located, and this is said to be dedicated to the powerful Mononobe clan prior to the mid 7th century.

    The Mononobes were a powerful martial clan of the ancient government and the shrine also served as a kind of an arms stockyard. Still many ancient arms such as the Nanasaya-no-tachi which has seven branched blades on a sword, and other swords, daggers and shields are preserved in the shrine. Alongside the road are located many ancient burial mounds, including the gigantic 240 m long mound devoted to Emperor Sujin (the 10th Emperor).

    The road, which is surrounded by water and rich greenery, is still popular with people for hiking. Sakurai City has been a market town developed as a major road transport junction since early times. Abe-monjuin Temple, which enshrines the Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Intellect, and Mt. Miwa-yama, dedicated to the worship of the God of Mountain, are found in this city.

    Getting there
    Two hour 15 minute ride from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, then 45 minutes to Nara Station by JR Nara Line. Thirteen minutes from Nara Station to Tenri Station by JR Sakurai Line. Alternatively, from Kintetsu Namba Station (Osaka), a 30 minute ride to Yamato-Nishio-dera Station of Kintetsu Namba-Nara Line where you then change to Kintetsu Kashihara-Tenri Line for Tenri Station, 20 minutes.

     

  • Yamato-Ko'oriyama and Yada-kyuryo Hills
    Ko'oriyama Castle, famed for its cherry blossoms - Yada-dera Temple, surrounded by gregarious hydrangeas
    Yamato-Ko'oriyama City is located in the northwestern part of the Nara Basin, having been founded as a castle town around Ko'oriyama Castle, where Hidenaga, the brother of the famous warrior, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, reigned during the 16th century.Ko'oriyama Castle, famed for its cherry blossoms, once used a lot of stone Buddha images for the fortress stone walls. We can still see a variety of these stone images of Buddha and Jizo set upside down in the walls. From the remains of the main citadel, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Yamato Plain. The city is also famed for goldfish production, having the largest yield of the country. The gross area of fish farms is as large as 800 square km, where they produce 80 million goldfish a year. In April every year, a variety of events such as competitive exhibitions and prized goldfish catching championships take place during the Oshiro-matsuri(the castle festival) Festival.

    The Yada-kyuryo Hill spreads throughout the western part of the city with a fertile and rich natural landscape. Half way up the hill is situated Kongosen-ji Temple, which is better known as Yada-dera Temple, where gregarious hydrangeas are famous. Some 8,000 roots of over hydrangeas of 60 kinds are planted. In their flower season of June and July, the precincts are full of visitors and worshippers.

    Getting there
    Two hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, then 40 minutes from Kyoto to Yamato-Saidaiji Station by Kintetsu Kyoto Line, and from Yamato-Saidaiji Station to Kintetsu Ko'oriyama Station, 6 minutes by Kintetsu Kashihara Line. Alternatively, from Osaka Station to Ko'oriyama Station for 55 minutes by JR Kansai Honsen Line.

     

  • Yoshino
    Zao-do, the sacred site for mountain worship and mountaineering asceticism - Mt. Yoshino-yama where 30,000 cherry trees blossom
    Yoshino, located at the center of Nara, is a collective term for the central and northern part of the Kii Mountains and the areas along the Yoshino-gawa River, within the Yoshino-Kumano National Park. The most famous site is Mt. Yoshino-yama with over 30,000 cherry trees, the best cherry blossom viewing spot in Japan.Mt. Yoshino-yama was the site for disciplinary practice of mountaineering asceticism around the Kinpusen-ji Zao-do Temple built in the Nara Period in the 8th century by En-no-Gyoja, one of the founders of the mountaineering asceticism, which is a sect of Buddhism that incorporates the ancient mountain worship. Since the Gyoja designated cherry trees as the sacred tree, many devotees donated cherry trees, and created Shita-no-senbon (1,000 trees in the outer shrine), Naka-no-senbon (1,000 in the middle shrine) and Oku-no-senbon (1,000 in the inner shrine) and other famous spots for cherry trees.

    There is the Zao-do, the main sanctuary of the Kinpusen-ji Temple and designated as a national treasure in the mountain. It is the second largest wooden structure only after the Daibutsu-den of the Todai-ji Temple in Nara. There are the Yoshino-jingu Shrine founded at the end of the 19th century, the Yoshimizu Shrine which used to be monks' quarters of the Kinpusen-ji Temple, Nyoirin-ji Temple and Kinpu Shrine. There is the Miya-taki Falls at the upstream of the Yoshino-gawa River that runs in the foot of the mountain. Many visitors come to enjoy the scenic sights of the river with gigantic, oddly shaped rocks on both banks and the Miya-taki vestige where remains of 7th century structure were discovered.

    Getting there
    Take JR Tokaido Shinkansen for 2 hours and 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station. Then take Kintetsu Line for 1 hour and 45 minutes from Kyoto Station to Yoshino Station. If you are coming from Osaka, take Kintetsu Line for 1 hour and 25 minutes from Osaka-Abenohashi Station to Yoshino Station.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.

 

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