Buddha, Todaiji Temple

Buddha, Todaiji Temple


Buddha, Todaiji Temple - History

The Todai-ji is placed, according to Feng Shui or Chinese geomancy, north of the complex. The complex, begun in 745 by Emperor Shomu, consists of several structures.

Reconstruction of the original temple in the period Heijo kyou, between two pagodas.
Source: Introduction to Japanese Architecture. Drawing: Tan Hong Yew.

NANDAI-MON (GREAT SOUTH GATE)

This majestic portico, 20 m high, dates from 1199 and is used to enter the compound, separating it from the worldly life. It leads to a processional access to a courtyard, which used to receivethousands of pilgrims and Buddhist monks. The original porch was made in Indian style, and this 2/3 version of the original dates from 962, after the original was partially destroyed by a typhoon.


I've always found fascinating the way these huge wooden structures are assembled in a building system which is as effective as intricate. The technique, imported from China, has evolved with differences depending on the time and place where it was applied, but mantaining the samebasic essence.

The following video shows an animation of this construction system.

Between the Central Gate and the temple itself, aligned with the Kairo, there is a large octagonal, almost 5 meters high lantern, that was made of bronze in 752, with engravings representing divine beings such as lions and playing musical instruments.

In the middle of the courtyard stands the imposing main temple, the Daibutsuden. This huge wooden structure (56 * 50 * 50 m) houses the statue of Buddha.


The huge image is 15 m high (the tallest indoor Buddha statue in the world) and it was originally covered with gold by Emperor Shomu. Unfortunately, fires, earthquakes and other disasters removed the golden layer, also damaging parts of the original structure.


The statue sits in a mudra position, with his right hand raised, which means he has the power to grant wishes. The hand is so big that five monks can stand on it. Accompanying the Buddha, there are huge images of other deities and protector kings .

In the back of the temple one of the columns contains a hole about 50 cm. which is about the same size of the nostril of a statue of Buddha. The Japanese believe that if one is able to cross the column through that hole, he/she has a guaranteed place in heaven of Buddha, and for that reason many people try to pass across it. It is not uncommon to see someone trapped in the middle of the column, getting aid by some generous volunteers who would try to pull you out (as it was my case). At least I am saved from hell.


Leaving the Daibutsuden, is the spire that used to crowned an ancient pagoda, showing close a delicate work of art that is meant to be seen only by the gods.


Nearby, in a temple called Shoru, is one of Japan's oldest bells, cast in bronze. The great bell of nearly 5 m (which unlike the West is tolled by a large bamboo on the side) produces a deep sound and can be heard from great distances.


The important historical legacy of this ancient capital, considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can be seen in many other areas in Nara, which I hope to comment on other future occasions. Until then.


My Yatra Diary.

We stood there, right in front of the temple admiring it's grand scale and glory. The temple undoubtedly was huge and remarkable, but it was the peace permeated in the quarters that overwhelmed me more.

Meanwhile, snowwhite drew our attention to two unique protruding structures at the top of the temple and asked –


Now what could a shoe be doing at the top of a temple? Ha, talk of creative minds! Of course, I was wrong! History has seen fire destroy the edifice twice which is why the authorities decided to build these water symbolic structures on the top of the temple as a protecting force against fire. When we further learnt that this temple today was a mere scaled down version of the original one which was 1.5 times bigger, the grandiosity of the original structure was surely hard to imagine.

Four columns of marble flooring led us to the main temple hall, all of them laid in such a manner so as to depict the journey of Buddhism from India to Japan via China and Korea. As we approached the hall, we paused again this time for taking in a bit of the sacred vapors from the incense bowl. This would protect us from all diseases and keep evils at bay.

Snowwhite took time out pointing out the various aspects of the statue in detail. There was a lot to learn about the history of the statue and it's built, how His face was more radiating than the rest of His body and how His webbed hands gave out a blessing for one and all. There was a lot of peace to be found in His gaze, a lot of solace while standing at His feet. His serene face, the lotus flowers around Him, the glow emanating from the candles further enhanced His message of leading a pure life.

Besides the image, the temple also had a bell to announce your arrival in His house and quite a few Buddhist statues and other historic sculpts preserved over the years.

The highlight of the hall, however was a partially hollow wooden pillar believed to be the size of the Daibutsu's nostril. It is said that those who who can pass through attain deliverance in their next life.

I twisted my body this way and curled up that way until finally I realized that I had successfully passed through the door. Boy, if I wasn’t delighted! I had a fair enough reason too. Thanks to my Nara friends, albeit with a little difficulty, I had opened my door to Nirvana!

As we circumambulated the temple hall, I heard more and more stories from their folklore and realized that there was a lot of wisdom, a lot of knowledge veiled within the temple corridors. not only historical but the other worldly as well.

We could barely reach out till his legs, but even then we all made sure we did not miss out on touching this one!

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Comments

Fascinating reading, I'm intrigued by the Buddha's nostril.

Another wonderful visit to Japan, Arti! Terrific captures and information! I love seeing the deer roaming the area!! Have a great week!

what a delightful post! I would very much like to try my turn at crawling through Buddha's Nostril. I'm happy that your door to Nirvana has been opened for you Arti. I really like the brilliant and insightful approach to warding off future fire damage to the temple. happy week to you Arti.

beautiful photos and deers on road
beautiful capture

Good job, you made it! I would have never even tried, being really claustrophobic. This Buddha looks just massive!

Buddhist temples are always so peaceful.

So many things I like about this post! The sacred vapors and the healing Buddha are my favorites though.

Great sights! Enjoyed looking at this. Very informative too.

I'm loving your posts about your trip to Japan, Arti. You had gracious tour guides! Your explanations are marvelous. It's been snowing here in Breckenridge. I skied today with my little Grandchildren.

Very interesting, Arti! Hope your experience of attaining Nirvana stays with you:)

This is a lovely place to visit.
We are so glad you got through 'Buddha's Nostril' the second time around! :) Our human would not hesitate to worm through it if given a chance!

Since I am fat (LOL), I would not have gone through the nostril and would not have approached Nirvana, alas. What an interesting post!

Nice read. The temple looks so beautiful.

How lovely for you to meet Snowwhite and get shown around!

That is a magnificent temple.

Its very interesting and readable post. Pictures are also very beautiful.

awesome clicks - its a delight to drop into your blog :) :)

I spent two weeks in Japan over 10 years ago - I'd like to come back and have a better look around.

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Love the image of the children lighting the incense. :)

Oh cool, I'm so glad you explained what the top meant. I was wondering that as soon as I saw the first picture!

This is such a beautiful place and I wish I can have a trip to Japan. BTW, you need a lot of determination to go into the wooden hole, I feel sacred going into the Jawala ji cave which is fairly large to hold 4-5 people at a time.

Thanks for sharing the beautiful aspect of Japan with all of us. :)

Hi. It's a nice trip for you isn't it? You are very lucky. Snowwhite knows anything very well.
I enjoyed your photos very much too.

Hey I just came across your blog..I live in Osaka..and I went to Nara few months back.I hope u liked Japan!!
I am giving away a gorgeous bag from Tosca on my blog..do check it out!!
http://vivalahighstreet.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/give-away/

Hi, Arti
Seeing each and every one of your photos now, I am recalling every moment I spent with you.

Approaching the main hall of Todaiji, I remember four of us carefully walked on the marble pathway step by step, thinking of the long journey of Buddhism from India to Japan. I was deeply moved by walking on the pathway with you,Arti, from India.A big smile on your face still remains in my mind.

Did I tell you when I passed through the wooden hall first? That was when I was a junior high school student as I had a school journey! Of course, I could pass it through very easily. Can you believe it?
Redrose


Highlights of Todaiji temple:

The Great Buddha Temple of Todaiji temple has a front width of 57 meters and a depth of 50 meters. It is the largest wooden building in the world. Inside the Great Buddha Hall, there is a large Buddha statue that is more than 15 meters high - Todaijirushanabutsuzo. This hall a must-see attraction in Todaiji temple.

Todaiji temple has many features including the largest temple gate in Japan, the amazing group of Buddha statues and the hall of the "Nigatsu-do". Next to the hall, there is a large pillar and a large gate. It is said that people who come to visit the shrine will be lucky in that year if they pass through the gate, so don't forget to try it when you visit the temple.


3. Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto

Located in the eastern Higashiyama area in Kyoto, the Kiyomizudera Temple is one of the most famous and celebrated temples in the city. The temple was founded in 778 and contains buildings from the 17th century including the main hall which was designated as a National Treasure.

The temple sits on Mount Otowa and reaching the temple is in itself a bit of an uphill walk, but the beautiful temple and the panoramic view make it worth the climb. When you reach the summit, you will be greeted by a grand red Niomon Gate and a three-storied pagoda. The pagoda and gate make this place a popular spot for taking pictures. The most distinctive feature of the temple is its wooden stage which offers an outstanding panoramic view of Kyoto.

How to access Kiyomizudera Temple

10 minute walk uphill from Kiyomizu-ichi Bus Stop or Gojo-zaka Bus Stop.


Ordination Platform with Stupa (Kaidan)

Kaidan is a place for a Buddhist initiation ceremony and therefore very important considering the reason why this temple was built. It was originally built at the time as the foundation of the temple, but the building was lost in a fire and only the stone foundation has survived to this day. The stupa, modelled after the Great Stupa of Sanchi, India, was added in 1978.


Go through its nostril!

The Great Buddha hall has a pillar with a hole as big as the statue’s nostril. Visitors are allowed go through this hole, however it is quite small, just 30吡 centimeters square. It is said that getting through it successfully will give you good health.
(The temple originally constructed the hole to rid the building negativity.)

The hole is the same size as the Buddha statue’s nostril.

There are 4 other beautiful statues at the Great Buddha hall, and are another highlight of the temple.


Contents

Emperor Shômu ordered the construction of Tôdai-ji in 743, to serve as a national Imperial temple. It was to be the head temple in Japan of the Kegon school of Buddhism, a school particularly favored by Shômu. [1] The site chosen for the temple was previously that surrounding the hermitage of the Kegon Buddhist master Rôben he would later become the temple's first abbot. [2]

Construction began on the temple in 747 it was a huge financial undertaking for the Imperial Court, and one of the largest temple projects, and Buddhist sculptural projects, in the Buddhist world at the time. Originally known as Kokubun-ji, the temple was renamed Tôdai-ji shortly afterwards. [3] The construction of the temple and of its Great Buddha were a means by which the Yamato state (i.e. Japan) showed the rest of the Buddhist world (mainly China & Korea) its wealth, power, and devotion.

The Great Buddha was completed and dedicated in a grand ceremony on 752/4/9. Ten thousand monks, four thousand musicians and dancers, and seven thousand officials were in attendance, along with the Indian priest Bodhisena (704-760), who performed the key ritual element of the ceremony by painting in the sculpture's eyes. [4] As part of this grand eye-opening ceremony held for the sculpture, Emperor Shômu is said to have officially declared himself "a servant of the Three Treasures of Buddhism." [5]

An ordination hall, or kaidan'in, was established at Tôdai-ji in 755 there, the Chinese monk Ganjin, quite possibly the only man in Japan capable of ordaining other monks, ordained 400 people, including Empress Kômyô. [6] When Emperor Shômu died the following year, Kômyô established the Shôsôin Imperial Storehouse on the grounds of Tôdai-ji, and donated roughly 600 objects to be held there, including textiles, musical instruments, metalware, and other gifts from Tang Dynasty China, Korea, and as far afield as Persia.

The temple wielded great political influence at various times in its history, particularly in the Nara and Heian periods, and became embroiled in armed conflict at times as well. Throughout much of the late Heian through Muromachi periods, Tôdai-ji was likely the largest landholder and powerholder (kenmon) in the archipelago. [7] Tôdai-ji, along with nearby Kôfuku-ji, came under attack from the forces of the Taira samurai clan in 1181 for this reason the temple had opposed the Taira both politically, and militarily, fielding forces of warrior monks in support of the opposing Minamoto clan. The 1181 siege of Nara saw the destruction of Tôdai-ji, Kôfuku-ji, and Gangô-ji, and the deaths of roughly 35,000 people. The temples were rebuilt shortly afterwards, however. The Buddhist priest Shunjôbô Chôgen (1121-1206) was placed in charge of the reconstruction project, and of organizing campaigns for collecting monetary contributions. Saigyô became one of a number of prominent figures of the time who went on a journey to the provinces in order to campaign for contributions. [8]

Reconstruction of Tôdai-ji's daibutsuden was completed in 1195 and a rededication ceremony was held for the structure Shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo visited the temple at this time, offering a sizeable contribution, and paying his formal respects to the emperor. The Nandaimon, destroyed in a typhoon in 962, was rebuilt in 1199, and survives from that time today. The structures rebuilt at this time, the Nandaimon in particular, incorporated new elements of architectural style, brought back to Japan by Chôgen, who visited China three times between 1167 and 1176. The new architectural style he created based on the latest trends in China at that time came to be known in Japan as daibutsu-yô, or "Great Buddha style," because of its prominent use at Tôdai-ji. [9]

A re-dedication ceremony for the temple as a whole was held in 1203, and attended by Emperor Go-Toba.

The temple suffered damage from fire again in 1567, in a battle between the Miyoshi and Matsunaga clans.

The Daibutsuden that stands today dates back to 1707, when the hall was destroyed and rebuilt at roughly 70% of its previous size. Yet, even reduced in size, it remains the largest wooden building in the world.

The temple has undergone renovations numerous times in its long history one of the most significant recent restoration projects took place from 1906-1913.

Within the grid system of Nara's streets, Tôdai-ji takes up 64 city blocks. However, that large space is actually only sparsely filled with buildings. Many sub-temples or other structures exist today that were not part of the original plans and are much later additions.

The Daibutsuden sits just south of the center of the compound, facing south. It is eleven bays long by seven bays deep, or 285 x 170 feet, and 154 feet high. Before it lie the chûmon ("central gate" rebuilt 1716), and beyond that, directly to the south, at the center of the southern edge of the compound, the Nandaimon ("South Great Gate"). The lecture hall (kôdô) was located behind the Daibutsuden, surrounded on three sides by the monks' quarters, and connected to the refectory to the east. A set of walls encircled these structures, creating, essentially, three plazas - one before the Great Hall, one behind it, and one behind that surrounding the kôdô. Today, this entire section behind the Daibutsuden is no longer extant, or at least not in that location. [2]

The remainder of the temple's buildings lay at some distance from the Daibutsuden, outside of its immediate encircling walls (but still within the walls of the compound as a whole). A pair of 330-foot tall pagodas, each with their own encircling walls, stood just south of the chûmon, and to either side of it. These, too, are no longer extant. [2]

The kaidan'in (ordination hall) built in 755, however, is extant, and actively in use. It lies to the west of the Daibutsuden, roughly halfway between it and the outer walls of the compound. The Tegaimon, originally one of three gates piercing the western wall of the compound, is the only original 8th century gate still extant on the grounds. Continuing clockwise around the Daibutsuden, the Shôsôin can be found behind the Great Hall, to the northwest. Two structures originally stood in the eastern portion of the compound: the Nigatsudô ("Second Month Hall") and Hokkedô ("Lotus Hall"). The Hokkedô, also known as the Sangatsudô ("Third Month Hall"), is the oldest extant building on the grounds, and was originally established as Kinshô-ji (or Konshu-ji), a temple in its own right, constructed c. 740-747 [3] for the monk Rôben prior to the establishment of Tôdai-ji (some sources indicate it was built not for Rôben, but for Imperial Prince Motoi, a son of Emperor Shômu [3] ). It was previously also known as the Kensaku-dô, after the Fukûkensaku-kannon which was the chief object of worship in the hall the name Sangatsu-dô ("Third Month Hall") derives from the fact that the hall observed its annual rituals in the third month.

When the building was rebuilt by Chôgen in 1199, two previously separate buildings were joined the Hokke-dô now consisted of a worship hall in front, and a main hall directly behind it. It is said that this hall was the site of the first lecture on the Kegon Sutra in Japan. [3]

Sculptures

Daibutsu

At the time of its creation, the Daibutsu at Tôdai-ji, a representation of Dainichi Nyorai (Vairocana), was the largest cast-bronze statue in the world, at more than 50 feet tall and over one million pounds (500 short tons) in weight. [4]

The current Daibutsu, the product of numerous repairs and reconstructions, is still the largest bronze Buddha sculpture in Japan, at 18.03 meters tall (including the platform 14.98m tall without the platform), and weighing 250 tons. Its face is 5.33m long, and each eye is 1.02m long. The statue's ears are each 2.54m long, and its mouth is 1.33m wide. The urna is 30cm in diameter, and each of its 966 whorls of hair is 21cm high and 22cm in diameter. [10]

The body of the Daibutsu was completed in 749, but other elements, such as the whorls of hair, and gilding, were not ready until 752. The eye-opening ceremony was held that year, and attended by numerous court nobility, as well as over 370 monks and officials from Silla (Korea), [11] and a number of prominent Buddhist masters from China there was even (at least) one monk from India who is said to have been present, and to have performed the actual painting-in of the Buddha's eyes. The sculpture's halo (or mandorla) was not finished until 771. [12]

The Daibutsu was severely damaged in the 1181 fires set by the Taira warriors who besieged the temple. The Heike monogatari relates that:

. the head of that holy image - that face resplendent as a full moon - melted and fell to earth, and the body fused into a mountainous heap. Like an autumn moon, the eighty-four-thousand signs of Buddhahood vanished behind the cloud of the Five Deadly Sins like stars in a night sky, the necklaces of the Forty-One Stages flickered in the wind of the Ten Evils. Smoke permeated the heavens flames filled the air below. Those present who witnessed the sight averted their eyes those afar who heard the story trembled with fear. Of the Hossō and Sanron scriptures and sacred teachings, not a scroll survived. It was impossible to imagine such a devastating blow to the Buddhist faith in India or China, to say nothing of our own country." [13]

The Daibutsu was repaired quite quickly however a celebration for the completion of repairs was held in 1185, less than five years later.

Other Sculptures

Many of the other sculptures at Tôdai-ji are also of great art historical significance.

Kuninaka Kimimaro (d. 774) was a prominent Buddhist sculptor (busshi) of the time who headed a studio established temporary at the temple in order to produce images for the compound. A number of these original 8th century sculptures are housed in the Hokkedô, where fifteen sculptures, some in clay and some in dry lacquer, are organized in a specific mandala-like pattern around a dry lacquer Fukûkenjaku Kannon dating to the 740s, and 142 inches tall. Twelve sculptures housed in the Hokke-dô have been designated National Treasures, and another four are Important Cultural Properties fourteen of these were created during the Tenpyô era (729-749) and are considered precious examples of the style of that era. [3]

Statues of Nikkô and Gakkô flanking the Kannon, each 81 1/2 inches high, are considered among the finest examples of clay sculpture from this period. This arrangement also includes a pair of Niô (Guardian Kings) and set of Shitennô (Four Heaven Kings) in dry lacquer, each nearly 10 feet tall, as well as dry lacquer sculptures of Taishakuten and Bonten, each roughly 13 feet in height, all dating to the 8th century, and all considered of great art historical and religious importance. Another set of very significant sculptures of the Shitennô, also dating to the mid-8th century, can be found in the kaidan'in these are made of clay, rather than dry lacquer. [14]

Another sculpture in the Hokkedô, an image of Shûkongôjin (Vajrapani), is of particular significance. Made of painted & gilded clay, it is associated with Kinshô-ji, the temple established for Rôben in 733, ten years before even the order for Tôdai-ji's construction. A secret image, held to be especially powerful for its being hidden, this sculpture is only shown once a year. [14]

It is unclear which of these sculptures were housed in the Hokke-dô originally, and which were not originally designed for the space (nor for this particular grouping of sculptures). There is a degree of consensus, however, that the two Niô, the Taishakuten, Bonten, and Shitennô were likely originally created to accompany the Kannon and Shukongô-jin, and that the sculptures of Benzaiten, Nikkô, Gakkô, and Kisshôten were not. The Benzaiten and Kisshôten were likely moved to the Hokke-dô after the temple's Kisshô-in hall was lost in a fire in 954, and the Nikkô and Gakkô sometime afterwards. Finally, the Hokke-dô's sculpture of Jizô dates to the 13th century, and its sculpture of Fudô-myôô to 1373. [3]

A pair of Niô guardian figures housed inside the Nandaimon ("Great South Gate") of the temple, the tallest freestanding wooden sculptures in Japan. They were fashioned by Unkei and Kaikei, along with 18 assistants, over the course of 72 days in 1203, using multiple block construction. They are unusual in that they face inwards, towards one another, while most guardian statues installed in gates face forwards, outwards from the compound. [15] A number of other sculptures made by Unkei for Tôdai-ji, including one of the bodhisattva Kokuzô and one of Jikoku-ten, do not survive today. [16]

The complex also includes a shrine to Hachiman, which contains a particularly lifelike sculpture in wood by Kaikei, depicting the Shintô deity Hachiman in the guise of a Buddhist monk. This seated sculpture, in usually good condition with its painting intact, is 34 1/2 inches tall, and dates to 1201. [17]


Buddha, Todaiji Temple - History

This was a quote taken from Nara City’s sightseeing guide brochure. Nara City is a highly recommended site to visit – for the great buddha as well as the relaxed atmosphere of the city. And it did not fail. Not only was this city another former capital of Japan, this small city is packed with history, ancient architecture, world heritage listed buildings and lots of deers!

Once again, I started my day visiting the Nara City Tourist Info Centre next to the Jr Nara Station. The lady who welcomed me, as I walked into the office, with a beaming smile on her face! What a great start to my day! She gave me a walking map and told me that a special Japanese show was happening at a certain time. Lovely lady. I believe they are volunteer staff, so it meant more being cordially welcomed to their city. A short walk or bus ride from the Nara Station is the Nara park then all around and within the park is the Nara National Museum and other museums as well as numerous temples and shrines.

Still brooding from the missed major ‘to-see’ places in Kyoto, I aimed to go straight to the main place to see in Nara, so first up – Todaiji Temple. A world heritage site, Todaiji Temple is most famous for the world’s largest bronze buddha – Daibutsu-san, the great buddha. The original temple was established in the 8th century, burned down by fires during the war and rebuilt in 1709 to a scaled-down size of two-thirds of its original size.

I liked the architecture of this temple, although I worry about the preservation (or the lack of) effort on the Daibutsuden Hall, as it is all made of timber which is very much exposed to natural air. Although I am not an expert on maintenance of these structures I wonder how much longer they would stand time and aging.


Visiting Todaiji Temple for the Great Buddha in Nara

I have a good memory of the Todaiji Great Buddha in Nara because my grandfather painted it and I grew up seeing his painting since I was a child. My kids started to study Japanese history at school, so I wanted them to understand the size of the Great Buddha. It is one of the biggest statues and is a fine example of the gathered knowledge and technology of the Asuka period. I believe it’s difficult to understand the actual size unless you see it for real. So before you go to Nara, here’s everything you need to know to ensure you have an incredible trip.

The Great Buddha

The Great Buddha is 15m tall and the Daibutsuden, the Great Buddha Hall, is 57m wide and 50m in depth. The Great Buddha alone once occupied the space, but the Daibutsuden had enough space for other huge statues to fit inside. One of the greatest parts of the Daibutsuden is its largeness. Three other statues are also placed inside. Two of Four Heavenly Kings of 5m height produced in the Edo period (18th century) were standing calmly. I had to look up to see their faces. Inside of the Daibutsuden was full of tourists, but my kids could still run around.

Todaiji Temple

Todaiji Temple was founded in the 8th century and the Daibutsuden was reconstructed in the Kamakura (12th century) and Edo (18th century) periods. It was r econstructed in 1203 by the Daibutsuyo method imported from China by Chogen, a monk who traveled over the Japan S ea to China by ship . He learned and mastered the technique to construct solem n temple buildings. The Daibutsuyo method embodied characteristic s of continent with expansive atmosphere. There w ere no tall buildings around Nara Park, so we could experience the same impression of the huge wooden Daibutsuden. One of the features of the Daibutsuyo method is combining horizontal wooden beams with standing pillars. This reinforces the structure and create s an impressive view.

Sange: Flower Petals

At a souvenir shop in the Daibutsuden, I saw “Sange” for the first time and bought it. Sange is flower petals for praising and respecting the virtues of Buddha. People once used lotus flowers and fresh flowers, but these days colored paper is more popular for Sange. Some temples ask famous painters and artists to draw original pictures and these are printed as memorabilia. It was my first time to buy Sange, but I can understand why Sange collectors exist, because they are so beautiful. It could be used as cards or memos for friends and family.

Nara Park

Around the Daibutsuden in Nara Park, there are many great temples and museums. Nigatsudo is a sub-temple of Todaiji and along with Shosoin they are a good reference for Japanese architecture. Nara National Museum located near Kofukuji Temple in the Nara Park is also worth visit ing .

Nigatsudo

At Nigatsudo, monks obtain a practice of Shuni-e ceremony in March which is said to originate from praying for an abundant harvest. The climax of the Shuni-e ceremony is monks hold ing huge torches and wav ing them at the outside corridor. The building of Nigatsudo was built for the Shuni-e ceremony and it has unique architecture with a spectacular wooden stage for the ceremony.

Shosoin

Shosoin is located in the northern part of Nara Park and is a wooden treasure storehouse built in the Azekura style. The floor is raised to 2.5m height to prevent humidity and to protect from thefts and harmful animals.

How to get there

Japanese temples tend to be tidy and compact, however Todaiji Temple is different as it has more grandeur. It takes 3-4 hours to walk around seeing old temples and visiting the National Museum in Nara Park. Additionally, you can play with free-roaming deer for one more hour if you wish. Nara is a 45-minute journey by train from either Osaka or Kyoto stations. From Nara Station it’s a 20-minute walk to Nara Park.

Kofukuji Temple

After visiting the Daibutsuden, I visited Kofukuji Temple in Nara Park to see the Ashura Statue with three face s and six arm s . Ashura might be in the top 3 of the most popular Buddhist statues in all of Japan and it is also one of my favorite statues. It has three graceful and sophisticated faces that express his confession. It has youth and braveness in the face. The size is smaller than I expected, but it gives a sense of intimidation in the dark building. People in old times were smaller than us, so they received a very energetic impression from the statue inside of the dark building.

Kofukuji Temple was built in 710 and it has various statues there. The atmosphere is slightly different from the Kyoto and Kamakura period. It is a great chance to see the various statues at the same time. The distance s between statues and people are short at Nara’s temples, so you can see them from different directions. They are never pompous and I felt secure to be protected by them. The building was rebuilt several times after big domestic wars, but even after reconstruction I could imagine how people pray ed there.

Naramachi Townwalk

My kids were tired of seeing old buildings and statues after feeding crackers to lots of deer at Nara Park. They didn’t have much energy to visit other old buildings in Nara Park, so we took a walk in the Naramachi area after visiting the Daibutsuden and Kofukuji.

Naramachi used to be part of the grounds of Gangoji Temple and now you can enjoy Machiya, a traditional merchant townhouse. Naramachi was expanding around the end of the Edo period (mid 19th century) and you can still catch a glimpse of the lifestyle of the old time s . Some merchant houses have been renovated into small museum s , cafe s or restaurant s for casual dining so Naramachi has a good balance of the old and new. It is an area of about 1 km square and it takes about 1-2 hours to see around.

Bon Appetit: French Restaurant

I wanted a change-up and a bit of a break from Japanese style suppers, so we had dinner at a French casual dining place, Bon Appetit. The owner- chef developed his own individual styles combining French technique with a Japanese sensibility. He has passion to feature the seasons with local finest vegetables and quality ingredients. He renovated a 90-year old Machiya house with stairs made from boxes, latticed windows and miniature gardens.

Guesthouse Naramachi

After finishing dinner, we stayed at Guesthouse Naramachi. It was the first time for my kids to stay in a dormitory. They were so excited about sharing bedrooms, bathrooms and a lounge with total strangers. We stayed in six-mat tatami rooms with 4 beds. One tatami is about 90 cm by 180 cm in size . We express the room size with how many tatamis can fit into the room . Every space was kept very clean and tidy. Owners of the guesthouse were so kind and gave practical travel tips about Nara. Finally, we exhaled relief at the Guesthouse.

How long to stay

My recommendation is a one night stay to enjoy the calm and traditional areas in Nara. There are not so many tourists in Nara and night time is much darker with less street lights. Enjoying the town darkness and silence is the best part of staying in regional towns.


Watch the video: Άγαλμα του ξαπλωτού Βούδα σε ναό στην Ταϊλάνδη