Horyuji Temple was the first property in Japan to be registered as a World Heritage site. Built by Prince Shotoku as a place to realize his ideals, the temple boasts the world's oldest surviving wooden structures and enshrines nearly 190 items of national treasures and important cultural properties. It may take an entire day to view and appreciate every detail of the buildings and treasures found throughout the spacious precincts, including Goju-no-to (the Five-story Pagoda), Kondo (the Main Hall) in Saiin Garan, and Yumedono (the Hall of Visions, an octagonal hall) in Toin Garan. If you are visiting the temple for the first time, you must see Shaka-sanzon-zo (the Three Buddhist Images) in the Kondo (the Main Hall), as well as the statue of Kudara Kannon, the statue of Yumetagai Kannon, and Tamamushi-no-zushi at Daihozoin (the Great Treasure Hall).
After leaving the peaceful countryside of Ikaruga behind, you will follow Yamanobe-no-Michi, a hiking route full of ancient beauty that stretches along the bottom of sacred Mt. Miwa. There are other attractive places to visit within the area, including Hase-dera Temple, famous for the beauty of its peonies. Other popular tourist spots include Muro-ji Temple, known for shakunage (rhododendron) gardens and autumn colors, and Tanzan-Jinja Shrine, also known for its beautiful landscape in the fall.
Ishibutai Burial Mound is a mysterious stone monument in Asuka, whose purpose and use are still unclear. There are many other stone monuments in the area, such as Kameishi (tortoise stone), Saruishi (monkey stone), Oni-no-Manaita (Ogre's chopping board), and Oni-no-Setchin (Ogre's outhouse). You may hike, rent a bicycle, or take the Kame Bus to tour a number of ancient remains and historic places in the area, according to your time and destinations.
Known as the best scenic spot for cherry blossoms (Japan's national flower), Mt. Yoshino is one of three World Heritage sites in Nara. In spring, as many as 30,000 cherry blossom trees brighten up the entire mountain, with the blossom front gradually moving from the bottom to the top of the mountain over the course of about a month. Zao-do Hall at Kimpusen-ji Temple <World Heritage>, Yoshino Mikumari-Jinja Shrine <World Heritage>, Kimpu Jinja Shrine <World Heritage>, and Yoshimizu-Jinja Shrine <World Heritage> are located on the mountain. Mt. Omine, a holy place for Shugendo trainees, is also located nearby.
Todaiji Temple, the Hall of the Great Buddha
approx. 57m wide, 46.4m high and 50m deep
built in 607
made in 606
Originally eaten at Buddhist temples. Rice is cooked with bancha tea
leaves. A popular local dish for breakfast.
Originated as a means of preserving saba (mackerel) for landlocked
Nara. Vinegared sushi rice and slices of fish are wrapped in a persimmon leaf.
Flour made of kudzu, or Japanese arrowroot known as a medicinal herb used
for stewed dishes and traditional Japanese sweets.
Copying Buddhist sutras by hand. Shakyo sessions are held regularly
at Yakushiji Temple, Todaiji Temple, and other locations.
Kimpusen-ji Temple on Mt. Yoshino accepts visitor trainees for its shugen (ascetic
exercises) programs. Many temples also offer zazen (seated Zen meditation)
sessions for visitors.
A special tea ceremony at Saidai-ji Temple, using a 30-cm-wide giant tea bowl. Held around the beginning of the year (Jan. 15), April, and October. Be sure to check the schedule if you plan to visit Nara during this season.