Let’s start with the most popular one and the nevertheless than with the most significant wooden structures in the world.
Most mentioned and most photographed place in Nara, located in the heart of the city, Park is home to history, culture, and nature. Highlights include watching the park’s roe deer wander the woods and lawns while visiting its many historical buildings, including the magnificent Kofuku-ji Temple adjacent to the large Sarusawa Pond, as well as the Uneme Shrine. The largest such park in Japan (and one of the oldest, having been established in the 1300s), Nara Park is home to the eighth-century-AD Todai-ji (Great East Temple), the most famous of the Seven Great Temples of Nara. Todai-ji Temple highlights include its colossal bronze statue of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), cast in Nara in AD 749; its Great South Gate (Nandaimon), a two-story structure borne on 18 columns with its two Nio statues standing eight meters tall and guarding the temple entrance; and the Hall of the Great Buddha (Daibutsuden), the world’s largest timber building and home to the Great Buddha (Daibutsu). In addition to its many other historically significant buildings, the site also boasts beautiful gardens and water features, including ponds, bridges, and pagodas.
Access: Todaiji is located in the northern part of Nara Park. It is about a 30 minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, or about a 45 minute walk from JR Nara Station. It can also be reached by bus from either station. Get off at Todaiji Daibutsuden from where it is a 5-10 minute walk to Todaiji’s main building.
Address: 406-1 Zoshicho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8211
Hours:8:00‒16:30（Nov. To Feb.） 8:00‒17:00（Mar.)
7:30‒17:30（Apr. to Sept.） 7:30‒17:00（ Oct.)
Todaiji’s grounds are Very specious and cover most of northern Nara Park, including a number of smaller temple halls and sites of interest around the Daibutsuden Hall. Below are some of the attractions that must be found in the Todaiji temple complex:
The Todaiji Museum was opened to the public in 2011 just next to the Nandaimon Gate, along the main approach to the Daibutsuden Hall. Rotating exhibitions from the temple’s large collection of religious art and cultural treasures, including large Buddhist statues, are held at the museum.
Hours: 9:30 to closing time of Daibutsuden Hall
Closed: between exhibitions
Admission: 600 yen (museum only), 1000 yen (museum and Daibutsuden Hall)
Nigatsudo Hall & Approach to Nigatsudo Hall
Hours: Always open
Admission: Free The Nigatsudo Hall is a short walk on the hill east of the Daibutsuden Hall and offers nice views of the city from its balcony. The hall is the site of the spectacular Omizutori ceremonies, held in March every year.
The side approach to Nigatsudo Hall is a quiet and picturesque street that is not far from the back of the Daibutsuden Hall. Stone walls flank the side of the street, and the Nigatsudo can be seen at the end of the path.
Hours: Same hours as the Daibutsuden Hall
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 600 yen The Hokkedo, also known as the Sangatsudo, is one of the oldest surviving structures in the Todaiji temple complex. It is a short walk east of the Daibutsuden Hall, beside Nigatsudo Hall. The building houses a statue of Kannon, surrounded by Buddhist guardians.
Hours: Same hours as the Daibutsuden Hall
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 600 yen Rebuilt in the Edo Period, the Kaidando Hall originally dates back to the 8th century when it served as Japan’s most important ordination hall. Today, it houses celebrated clay statues of the four heavenly kings (shitenno).
Hours: 10:00 to 15:00
Closed: Weekends and national holidays, December 28 to January 4
Admission: Free The Shosoin is a large storehouse constructed in the 8th century. Located a five minute walk behind the Daibutsuden Hall, the building is elevated on stilts and used to store the treasures of Todaiji Temple and the Imperial Family. It can be viewed by tourists from the outside only.
Spacious Japanese garden near Todaiji.
The Isuien Garden, home to the small yet exciting Neiraku Art Museum, opened in 1969 and is landscaped in the popular Japanese Shakkei style – literally translated as the “borrowed landscape” – in which the surroundings of the garden are fused in the total effect.
Together with the museum, it makes for a fabulous outing, especially if you visit the two teahouses in the nearer part of the garden, the Seishuan, and the Sanshutei, or the thatched Hyoshintei, the latter famous for its excellent green tea. Be sure also to visit the Teishuken waiting room. The older rear part of the garden, laid out in 1899, has the South Gate of the Todaiji and Mount Wakakusa as its backdrop.
And on its island in the little lake is a stone from the foundations of the Buddha Hall, while the stepping-stones are old millstones used in the manufacture of fabric dyes.
Address: 74 Suimoncho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8208
Hours: 9:30AM–4:30PM ; Tuesday – closed
Entrance fee: 900¥
3- Kasuga-taisha Shrine
The Kasuga Shrine, founded by Fujiwara Nagate during the eighth century. Consists of four separate buildings dedicated to the divinities Takemikazuchi and Futsunushi, along with the ancestral gods of the Fujiwara family, Amenokoyane and his consort Hime-okami. The buildings of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are characteristic examples of the Kasuga-zukuri style.
Differing from early timber buildings. In their brightly painted red beams, the white facing of the walls, and the curving roof-line.
Another distinguishing feature is the many hundreds of bronze and stone lanterns dotting the property. Lit each February and August during special Lantern Festivals. Until 1863, the buildings were pulled down every 20 years and re-erected in their original form. As is still the practice at the Ise Shrines; nowadays, this process of renewal is confined to the roofs. In Park, deer roam freely and are believed to be sacred messengers of the Shinto gods. That inhabit the shrine and surrounding mountainous terrain.
Kasuga Taisha is famous for its lanterns, which have been donated by worshipers. Hundreds of bronze lanterns can be found hanging from the buildings, while as many stone lanterns line its approaches. The lanterns are only lit twice a year during two Lantern Festivals, one in early February and one in mid August.
There are many smaller auxiliary shrines in the woods around Kasuga Taisha. Twelve of which are located along a path past the main shrine complex. And are dedicated to the twelve lucky gods. Among them are Wakamiya Shrine, an important cultural property known for its dance festival. And Meoto Daikokusha, which enshrines married deities and is said to be fortuitous to matchmaking and marriage.
Located a short walk from the Kasuga Shrine main complex is the Kasuga Taisha Shinen Manyo Botanical Garden. This garden displays about 250 kinds of plants described in the Manyoshu. Japan’s oldest collection of poems which dates to the Nara Period. A large part of the garden is dedicated to wisteria flowers which usually bloom from late April to early May.
The shrine grounds also contain the Kasuga Taisha Museum. A treasure hall near the main complex which displays some of the shrine’s relics. These include two sets of large ornate drums. Additionally, the Kasuga Primeval Forest, a sacred old-growth forest belonging to the shrine. That covers the mountain behind Kasuga Taisha. However, it is closed to the public untouched since the ninth century. Which is known for its rare birds, trees, and wildlife.
Address: 160 Kasuganocho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8212
Hours: 6:30 to 17:30 (April to September)
7:00 to 17:00 (October to March)
Inner area: 9:00 to 16:00
Entrance fee: 500 ¥ for the inner shrine; 500¥ for the Shinen Manyo Botanical Garden; 400 ¥ for the Treasure House
Official site: www.kasugataisha.or.jp/guidance/main_sanctuary.html