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We could have taken bus line 98 from Todaiji Temple to the Horyuji Temple Area, but we decided for the train as the faster option. We took a JR train from the JR station to Horyuji Station and then walked to the temple, which took us about 15min. There is also a bus that you can take – bus line 72 and exit at Houryuji-mae. Here is more information.
Hōryū-ji (Learning Temple of the Flourishing Law) is a Buddhist temple that was one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. It was built in 607 under the name Wakakusadera. In 670, lightning struck and all buildings burned down. The temple was rebuilt and the main hall (Kondō) is recognized as the world's oldest wooden building.
Wood used in the five-story 32.45m tall pagoda was analyzed by tree ring dating and it was found that the trees were felled in 594.
The admission fee is 1,500 Yen and includes admission to 3 major sites in the temple area. You will see temple buildings, a pagoda, small gardens from the outside and you will go into a museum where statues, paintings, garments and pottery from this site are displayed. We have been to many temples and museums in Japan and to me, nothing in Horyuji stuck out as very unique. If you are new to Japan and is one of your first stops, then you may not need to see many other temples as they will remind you of Horyuji.
You may want to spend 1 1/2 - 2 h in the temple.
On March 11, 708 AD, Empress Genmei ordered the imperial court to relocate to Heijō or Heijō-kyō (old name for Nara) as the new capital and in 710, Nara was established as Japan's first permanent capital.
With a 5 year interruption from 741-745, Nara was the seat of government until 784, when the capital was first moved to Nagaoka, and then Heian-kyō (Kyoto).
During the Nara period, Nara was the capital of Japan, and the Emperor lived there before the capital was moved to Kyoto.
The most widely accepted theory where the name Nara comes from is "Flat land". Nara is located in an area on the side of a mountain with a relatively gentle gradient. Flat areas in Japan were sometimes called “naru” or “naro” and one way to write this word out would be to use the character 平 ("flat"). In the past, Nara was sometimes spelled 平城.
The city of Nara was modeled after the city of Chang’an, which was the Chinese capital during the Tang dynasty. That means that Nara was laid out on a grid and the city was divided by four great roads with the ruler's place in the center where the roads meet.
Interestingly, besides being the Japanese capital from 710 to 784, Nara was only designated a city on February 1, 1898 and Nara was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in December 1998.
The climate that you can expect on your visit of Nara is shown here:
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Since we arrived at the JR Nara Station, we decided to not walk for 30-45min to get to the Todaiji Temple, but take a bus. The buses I give you are also valid in case you arrive at the Kinetsu-Nara Station. Lines 72, 77 and 97 go directly to the temple; you can also take line 1 if you don’t mind taking a detour around the city. If you are at Kinetsu-Nara, then you can also use lines 6 and 160.
In all cases, you exit at the Todaiji-Daibutsuden bus stop.
When you are done with your visit of Todaiji Temple, then you can use lines 78 and 98 (or line 2 for the detour) back to your train station.
The bus route map can be found here.
Todaiji Temple is a Buddhist temple complex that was one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. It was opened in 752 and it houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana (Daibutsu) in the Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsuden).
The structure burned down several times and the current Great Hall dates from 1709. It is about 30% smaller than the original. Like the building, the Great Buddha statue had to be recast several times e.g. due to earthquake damage. In 855, the head fell to the ground and replaced with a new head; the current hands were cast in the Momoyama Period (1568–1615) and the head in the Edo period (1615–1867).
The Buddha statue weighs approx. 500 tons.
Here are some more measurements:
I am amazed by Todaiji temple not just because of the amazing largest Buddha statue in Japan and the other golden statues to the right and left but also by being able to take all the photos that I wanted...flash or no flash.
During the bus ride and especially close to the temple you will notice lots of deer. They are not afraid of people as they are being fed by tourists and quite a few locals even sell deer food for 150 Yen. Besides visiting the main hall with the large Buddha and watching/feeding the deer, there is not much more to see and do in the temple.
Long story short: I truly enjoyed visiting the temple and taking lots of photos and I absolutely recommend this must-see site. Everything can be experienced in less than 1 hour.
Please click on the images below to kearn more about the other destinations we visited in Japan.