World Heritage Sites of Nara, Japan

World Heritage Sites of Nara, Japan

The city of Naga, #Japan used to be the country's capital. Though over time the capital was moved, the area's impressive #culture remains. Several heritage sites and #temples stand tall, and make excellent and informative day trips.


In the period before the the Japanese built a capital city in Kyoto in the twelfth century, the power shifted between different regions almost as often as the tectonic plates shifted beneath the island country.

power shifted between different regions almost as often as the tectonic plates shifted beneath the island country
One of the Many Heritage Sites in Japan

In the eighth century, the capital of Imperial Japan was moved to Nara and the country was ruled from there for just 74 years before it was again moved away.

Intricate Lanterns Hang in Many of the Temples

As far as historians and tourists go, Nara could have become another forgotten city like Asuka, Otsu, Kamo, or Nagaokakyo; all previous Japanese capital cities that are impossible for most people to name these days. But Nara is different because of the treasure trove of stunning and influential buildings that was left behind.

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Nara Park Classic Tour

Culture
 Nara Park, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan
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A pleasant city of about 400,000 is what Nara has become today; one that embraces its past but still looks to the future with a large number of universities and sustainable industries based on textiles and tourism. It is still defined by its history of more than 1300 years ago though.

Detailed Carvings add Personality
Gorgeous Flowers Bloom in the Temple Gardens

Seven constructions within Nara have been designated as part of an official World Heritage Site. Although there are other things to see, together they form the best examples of the ancient capital and the religious and political significance of the city. 

They form the best examples of the ancient capital, and the religious and political significance of the city

To help you plan a trip to Nara, I thought I would share a little about each of them. As you can see from the map, they are all relatively close to each other and could be seen in a day, if rushed.

Heijo Palace Site

Although this would once have been one of the biggest sites in Nara, the Heijo Palace site is now just foundations with a few reconstructions. It was built during the eighth century and was the Imperial Palace of Japan for just 74 years. The palace and the city around it was loosely based on the layout of Xian in China which was one of the most important Asian cities of the time. These days it is not a highlight of a visit to Nara but the reconstructed buildings and the remains of the layout give a decent sense of how the palace once must have looked.

The Impressive Heijo Palace Site


The Shrine is Expansive With a lot to Take in

Todai-ji Temple

The Todai-ji temple is an imposing sight from the outside; and that’s no great surprise considering it was the largest wooden building in the world until about a decade ago. Inside, the enormous Buddha (the largest bronze one in the world) towers over visitors. 

Inside, the enormous Buddha (the largest bronze one in the world) towers over visitors

More than two and a half million people gave money to help construct the original temple in the eighth century, as part of a national belief that Buddha would protect the country from natural disasters. 

More than two and a half million people gave money to help construct the original temple

Being wooden, the temple was at risk from fire and it has burned down twice since first being built. The latest version is a reconstruction from 1709.

Buddha Watches Over the Temple
Todai-Ji Temple From the Outside
Upturned Flaring Corners are a Classic Japanese Design 

Kofuku-ji Temple

This temple is the most central of all the Nara World Heritage Sites and historically it has always had the closest relationship to the city. Kofuku-ji had strong links to the Fujiwara clan in ancient times and would meddle in politics and military decisions sometimes. It is made up of a number of buildings that are easy to walk between including a five-storey pagoda, a three-storey pagoda, large religious halls and a treasure hall.

Colourful Flags Outside the Temple
An Impressive Five Story Pagoda
Kofuku-ji Temple, a Calm and Inspiring Place

Kasuga Grand Shrine

The Kasuga Grand Shrine has the most beautiful setting of all the sites in Nara. It is set up a hill in a primeval cedar forest that you can approach up an easy path decorated in statues. Inside the temple, there is so much detail in the design and decoration of the shrine. 

The balance with the nature around it flows through the whole shrine as well

Lanterns hanging all throughout give off a sense of enlightenment. The balance with the nature around it flows through the whole shrine as well. This is a relatively small site but one of the most stunning in its own unique way.

Lanterns Line the Temple's Many Walkways
A Unique Temple, With Lanterns as Decor
The Lanterns Strung up Give off a Cool Vibe

Gango-ji Temple

You have to go down some small roads and make good use of a map to find the Gango-ji Temple. Unlike all the others, it is hidden away in a narrow street in a suburb of Nara. Once inside, you’ll also realize that it is not the largest nor visually spectacular but it is home to a lot of history. 

You have to go down some small roads and make good use of a map to find the Gango-ji Temple

The graveyard is particularly interesting and the main hall is considered to be a Japanese national treasure. Once upon a time the temple complex spread out over a much larger area but it was destroyed by fire or overtaken by residential growth over the centuries.

The Graveyard at the Gango-ji Temple
Peaceful Gardens Around the Graveyard 
A Beautiful Example of Japanese Heritage

Yakushi-ji Temple

The Yakushi-ji Temple is split into two parts with a small road in between, such is its size. It is made up of quite a number of buildings including pagodas, halls, and an old learning centre. There are debates about exactly when it was built but it was either in the seventh of eighth century. 

Yakushi-ji is considered to be one of the most famous imperial temples in the whole country

Only one of the buildings – the East Pagoda – is completely original. The others have been reconstructed after being damaged or destroyed by fire. Yakushi-ji is considered to be one of the most famous imperial temples in the whole country.

Very Few Visitors Were out this Morning
A Very Tall Pagoda Dominates the Garden
Temples Everywhere you Look

Toshodai-ji Temple

This temple is interesting for the way it has been laid out and the buildings arranged. There are a number of structures which make up the whole complex and they are designed in a way that shows an openness in thinking of the people of the time. There are also large gardens within the temple complex which help to create a feeling of serenity. The Golden Hall is the most important building in Toshodai-ji Temple and is considered to be a national treasure of Japan.

This Temple is a National Treasure in Japan
Large Gardens Lend Themselves to the Serene Feel
The Toshodai-ji Temple is Just as Pretty Outside as in


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