A trip that Touches the Heart of Japan
About 1,300 years ago, Nara was the capital of Japan and the nation's political center. Centuries later, Nara still retains its seasonal natural beauty, which has not changed much since then. Historical heritage sites are found at various locations in the verdant green landscape. Nara is home to three World Heritage sites, all of which are appreciated as invaluable cultural assets, finely blended into the surrounding natural environment. Starting with Nara Park, the center of Nara tourism, your trip can also be extended to Ikaruga, a home of Prince Shotoku, or to Yoshino, the place in Japan most renowned for the beauty of its cherry blossoms.
As the birthplace of Japanese culture, Nara holds a number of historically valued cultural assets, many of which are found in the preserved beauty of its rich nature. Among these, three of Nara's most valuable inheritances have been recognized as World Heritage Sites: "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara," which includes eight important properties eloquently illustrating ancient history and culture; "Buddhist Monuments in the Horyuji Area," which recognizes the world's oldest wooden architectures of Horyuji Temple and Hoki-ji Temple and "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range," which acknowledges sacred sites for Shugendo, a religious practice that originated in Japan. Witnessing the abundance of Japan's ancient treasures is a privilege that only visitors to Nara may enjoy.
Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara (Nara-city)
Eight important assets are designated for this heritage site, including the Kasugayama Primeval Forest, as well as historic Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Registered as a World Heritage site in 1998, these monuments are appreciated for exhibiting the foundation of Japanese culture that formed as a result of cultural influences from China and Korea.
Yoshino Mikumari-Jinja Shrine
Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (Yoshino, Omine)
This World Heritage consists of Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, and Mt. Koya, three sacred sites connected by pilgrimage routes that reflect the fusion of Shinto, whose origin is found in Japan's ancient worship of nature, Buddhism, which was introduced from China and Korea, and Shugendo. The Yoshino/Omine area has been known since early times as the home mountain of Shugendo, an ascetic mountain religious practice. With deep forests that encompass the routes, these historic sites create a unique cultural landscape. Registered as a World Heritage in 2004.
- Zao-do,Kimpusen-ji Temple
Buddhist Monuments in the Horyuji Area (Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma-gun)
Established by Prince Shotoku, Horyuji Temple is recognized as the oldest wooden architecture in the world. A number of historically valuable buildings are found in the temple's precincts, including Kondo (the Main Hall) and Goju-no-to (the Five-story Pagoda), all of which gracefully exhibit architectural characteristics from different periods of time. The temple was registered as a World Heritage site in 1993, along with Hoki-ji Temple, which is also known for its historical associations with Prince Shotoku.
Extending 4 kilometers east to west and 2 kilometers north to south, Nara Park is a spacious public park where historic Todaiji Temple ＜World Heritage＞, Kohfukuji Temple ＜World Heritage＞, and Kasuga Taisha Shrine ＜World Heritage＞ are located. While enjoying the peaceful sight of deer grazing on grass, the first destination is the Daibutsu, or the giant statue of Buddha, at Todaiji Temple. The Daibutsu stands approximately 15 meters high, and its palm is about 3 meters in width. Visitors can experience the size of its nostril comparing it to an opening made in the hall's pillar, which you may try to crawl through. One of the best picture-taking spots in the park is Sarusawa Pond, which beautifully reflects the Goju-no-to (the Five-story Pagoda) of Kohfukuji Temple on its surface and offers a great place to capture this memorable moment of your trip.
- Todaiji Temple
- Kasuga Taisha Shrine
Explore Naramachi (old Nara city) away from Nara Park
Where narrow, maze-like back alleys create a nostalgic view of old town charm. Traditional machiya houses, characterized by various latticework, line the streets along with old temples. Migawari-zaru, which are found hanging under the eaves of the houses, are monkey-shaped charms that are believed to bear one's misfortune. Souvenir shops that sell local specialties, such as Nara uchiwa (paper fans) and ittobori (one-knife) carvings, dot the alleys.
The 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital in 2010
As an extended tour, you can visit the Ruins of Heijokyu Place ＜World Heritage＞, a historic spot near YAMATO-SAIDAIJI Station, which will be celebrating an anniversary in 2010 commemorating the relocation of the capital to the area, which took place 1,300 years ago. Yakushiji Temple ＜World Heritage＞ and Toshodaiji Temple ＜World Heritage＞ are two venerable temples in the Nishinokyo area that are also worth visiting.
Ruins of Heijokyu Place
Rickshaw (Jinrikisha) tour Discovering Nara's hidden tourist gems
Try a rickshaw tour and add a special touch to your day in Nara Park. A variety of courses are available (from 30-minute courses to 3-hour courses) to cover popular tourist destinations, as well as the driver's special course, which includes off-the-beaten-path tourist spots.
- To reserve a tour,
- call Yamatoya-Nara at 0742-22-9123.