Nara Travel Information
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Nara is one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. The town has some of the best preserved temples and shrines in Japan.Nara was the capital of Japan in the 8th century, during the Nara Period. The city is located on the Kinai plain, in the Kansai region in central Japan, less than one hour from Kyoto and Osaka.On the following pages I will give you tourist information and travel tips in order to prepare a trip to this ancient capital.In the picture you can see the biggest temple in Nara, Todaiji or Great Eastern Temple.

Located almost at the center of the Japanese archipelago, Nara Prefecture is an inland prefecture surrounded by the four prefectures of Osaka to the west, Kyoto to the north, Wakayama to the south and Mie to the east. Nara, with a total population of some 1.44 million, has a diversified geography, a plane to the north and the Kii Mountain Range, or 'the Roof of Kinki (or Osaka Area)' to the south. Approx. 60% of the prefectural area is occupied by forest. Its main industries are textiles, timber and lumber.

Nara occupies an important position in the history of Japan; it is said that the first state was located in Nara. Nara is also a home of various World Heritage sites such as Todaiji Temple, Horyuji Temple, and others including numerous Buddhist art and architecture classified as National Treasures and Important Cultural Asset.

The ancient capital, Nara Heijokyo, established in 710 A.D. and modeled on Changan, Capital of Tang Dynasty China, was an international city, designated by World Heritage as a historical asset. Nara will soon celebrate the 13th centennial anniversary of its founding. A city plan is being undertaken with 'history', 'culture' and 'friendship exchange' as key words, looking forward to the next 100 years or 1,000 years to come.

In early Japanese history, the nation's capital was moved to a new site each time a new emperor came to the throne. In 710, however, the first permanent Japanese capital was set up at Nara. Not that it turned out to be so permanent -- after only 74 years, the capital was moved first to Nagaoka and shortly thereafter to Kyoto, where it remained for more than 1,000 years. What's important about those 74 years, however, is that they witnessed the birth of Japan's arts, crafts, and literature, as Nara imported everything from religion to art and architecture from China. Even the city itself, laid out in a rectangular grid pattern, was modeled after Chinese concepts. It was during the Nara Period that Japan's first historical account, first mythological chronicle, and first poetry anthology (with 4,173 poems) were written. Buddhism also flourished, and Nara grew as the political and cultural center of the land with numerous temples, shrines, pagodas, and palaces.

Nara was the first imperial capital in Japan and today remains one of the country's most important historical and cultural centers. It is a relatively small, intimate city, dominated by the Todai-ji temple complex, which is the primary destination for most visitors. The central temple, the Daibutsu-den, is the largest wooden structure in the world and hosts the famous Daibutsu - an enormous casting of the Buddha, which is itself Japan's largest bronze statue. Todai-ji sits in center of the expansive Nara-koen, a park first established in the late 19th century. There are many other old, famous buildings and sights in the area, but perhaps the most beautiful is the approach to Kasuga Taisha, where stone lanterns line the wooded, secluded path. South of Nara-koen is Nara-machi, an old residential district still peppered with traditional buildings and narrow alleyways that is well worth a visit.

The outskirts of Nara city are home to a number of important temples, chief of which is the UNESCO-listed Horyu-ji. The oldest surviving Buddhist temple in Japan, Horyu-ji lies off a spur rail line southwest of Nara and is home to a distinctive five-storey pagoda, numerous priceless artifacts and Kon-do, the world's oldest wooden building. Closer to Nara proper are the temples of Yakushi-ji and Toshodai-ji, both of which also share UNESCO World Heritage status. The trio can all be visited in a day from Nara, which more than justifies a two-day visit to the area.

An ancient capital of excellent old architectures and images of Buddha - Horyu-ji Temple, the World Cultural Heritage Site. Nara prefecture is situated in the central west of the Japanese mainland. The capital was placed in the Asuka region, a southern part of Nara Basin in the northwestern part of the prefecture, as the first of unified Japan in the mid 4th century, and until the end of the 8th century Asuka prospered as the center of Japanese politics and economy. Later, the capital was moved to Heijyo-kyo, the current Nara City.

Under the protection of the Imperial family and aristocrats, temples and shrines such as Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden architecture in the world that enshrines Japan's largest Buddha, Yakushi-ji Temple that has excellent old architectures and images of Buddha, and Toshodai-ji Temple were built. Thus Heijyo-kyo developed as a temple town.

Horyu-ji Temple in Ikaruga Town, which is said to have been built in the early 7th century, is known as the oldest existing Buddhist temple. There are world's oldest wooden architectures as well as many paintings and sculptures in its possession, and the Temple is also registered as the World Cultural Heritage Site.Tourists visit this prefecture throughout the year to see scenic spots such as Mt. Yoshino-yama known to have the most beautiful cherry trees, and Nara Park that has friendly deer that has been considered familiar spirit and treasured.

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Nara is located in the north of Nara Basin where the fledging Japanese state was born in prehistoric times. The city was built through heavy Baekje and Chinese influence. In Nara and South Korea, it is widely accepted that most of the city's notable monuments (the Great Buddha, Horyuji, etc) were built by Baekje architects and some believe that the city's name itself comes from the Baekje word for "nation" (narat or nara), which has endured to modern times to become the Korean word "nara". Others believe that it is derived from Nadaraka, lit. flat place.

Nara became the capital of Japan from AD 710 to 784. The royal court of Empress Gemmei constructed a new capital modelled after the capital of Tang China, Chang'an, in AD 710. High civilization of the Middle Kingdom was introduced into Nara during the eighth century, following the fall of Baekje and the arrival of a massive influx of Korean people. Buddhism flourished under royal patronage. Even after the capital moved to Kyoto in 784, Buddhist temples remained powerful and enjoyed religious fame. Nara had been a Buddhist town for a long time. In the modern age, Nara developed as a local centre of commerce and government, for the prefectural government was seated here. The city was officially incorporated on 1 February 1898.

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Temperatures in Nara range from -1.1 to 27.75 (Celcius).

Rainfall in Nara varies from 165.0 to 1407.0 (mm/month).

Nara is the cradle of Japanese culture and the spiritual home of the Japanese people, keeping a beautiful harmony between history and nature. In the spring, after the Water-Drawing Ceremony is over, the delicate cherry blossoms in the ancient city of temples and shrines begin to bloom all at once. Radiant greenness will cover the roof tiles of these cathedrals in the summer. Later the ancient capital will be crowded with holiday-makers who seek the beauty of tinted autumnal showing the genuine nature of Nara. The drama of Nara's four seasons undoubtedly paints its historical remains most colorfully and makes the elegance of an ancient city much more exquisitely attractive.

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Japan is one the most expensive countries in Asia, if not the world for travel, but there are ways of keeping the outlays to a just-about bearable level. A skeleton daily budget, assuming you stay in the cheapest hostels, eat modestly and travel short distances, would work out to US$60.00 . Add about US$10.00 for extras like snacks, drinks, admission fees and entertainment. Staying in business or deluxe hotels and eating in pricey restaurants can easily have the ticker tipping US$200.00 . Long-distance travel is a real budget buster in Japan - if you intend to travel around to different places, it's well worth investing in a Japan Rail Pass. At the other end of the spectrum, high rollers will have no problems off-loading their cash. Japan specialises in establishments catering to the ostentatious flattery of business accounts - the higher the bill, the greater the prestige of the guests

You can buy yen at foreign exchange banks and other authorized money exchangers. At the international airports, currency exchange counters are usually open during normal office hours. The exchange rate fluctuates daily depending on the money market.

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World Heritage
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Nara was the glorious capital, "like a fragrant flower in full bloom," as an ancient poet once described it. Nara was the cradle of the great Japanese arts and the essence of culture in the long-ago Tempyo Period. The old, world-famous temples and shrines of the province of Yamato (presently Nara Prefecture) have handed down to us their precious history. Among others, the cathedrals of Todaiji, Kofukuji, Yakushiji, Toshodaiji and the Kasuga Grand Shrine are settings where one can encounter the rich, elegant ambience of the Tempyo Culture. As you go through the corridors, and glance at the tiled roofs of these cathedrals, the Tempyo Culture will make you forget all about time and space, and will whisper to you about the old days of well over a thousand years as though they were yesterday.

Heijo Palace Site

The extensive open space of lawn seen between Saidaiji Station and Shin-Omiya Station on the Kintetsu Line is the Heijo Palace, the center of Heijo-kyo Capital, which lasted for 74 years over the 7 successive reigns. The Palace was located in the northernmost area of the central Heijo-kyo Capital and, with an extended area toward the east, it had a total area of about 120 hectares. Containing the Daigoku-den and the Chodo-in for formal ceremonies, the Dairl as an emperors' residence, the To-in, and government offices with 8 ministries and 100 agencies, the Palace is considered to have been surrounded by mud walls and moats with a total of 12 gates, 3 gates being built in each direction. A continuous excarvation has been carried out by the Nara National Cultural Properties Research Institute since the 34th year of Showa(1959).

Moreover, the "Suzaku-mon," or the formal gate to the Heijo Palace, and the "To-in" Garden, or the site of aristocrats' banquets and ceremonies, were restored and have been open to public since April of the 10th year of Heisei(1998). (Near the bus stop Heijo-kyuseki on the bus route for Saidaiji Kitaguchi)

Todai-ji Temple

Todai-ji Temple, known for its "Daibutsu-san," or Great Buddha, is a representative temple in Nara, with an imposing appearance of the largest wooden structure in the world. This is a famous temple of the Kegon sect and was founded by Roben.

As the imperial ordinance was issued for the construction of Great Buddha, the temple was erected under national sponsorship so that the Great Buddha would be enshrined. The consecrating ceremony was held in the fourth year of the Tempyo-Shoho era (752). It took almost 40 years to complete the whole temple complex, because the temple site was gradually extended by adding more halls and pagodas.

Even after the transfer of the capital to Nagaoka in the third year of the Enryaku era (784), the temple enjoyed its prosperity under the protection of successive emperors, along with the Kofuku-ji Temple. However, the temple buildings were attacked with fire by Taira-no-Shigemori in the 4th yera of the Jisho era (1180), and by the army controlled by Matsunaga Hisahide in the 10th year of the Eiroku era (1567). Many of the buildings are reconstructions of the Edo period (1603-1868). There remain a large number of noted Buddhist statues sculptured in the Nara, Heian, Fujiwara and Kamakura periods (710-1333).

Kofuku-ji Temple

The Kofuku-ji Temple, situated next to the Todai-ji Temple, was prosperous as a forerunner of "Buddhism for aristocrats" in the Nara period. Among the seven biggest temples of Nara, the Kofuku-ji Temple has developed through the closest relationship with the town of Nara. In the 3rd year of the Wado era (710), the Umayasaka Temple, the predecessor of the present Kofuku-ji Temple, was transferred from Asuka to the Nara capital by Fujiwara-no-Fuhito. Then, as a tutelary temple of the Fujiwara family, it extended its influence with the prosperity of the family. The temple was attacked by the Taira family in the fourth year of Jisho (1180), and most of the temple buildings were burned down. In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), however, the Fujiwara family took a position of the Military Commissioner of Nara, and eventually became so influential that they occasionally appealed to the Imperial Palace with soldier monks.

In the vast precincts of the temple are the Chukon-do Hall, the Tokon-do Hall, the Hokuen-do Hall, the Nan'en-do Hall, the Five-storied Pagoda, the Three-storied Pagoda, the Ooyuya Bathhouse, the Oomi-do Hall and the Treasure Hall, some of which were constructed in and after the Kamakura period. As for Buddhist sculptures, there are a lot of famus articles and masterpieces of the Tempyo era.

Kasuga Grand Shrine

The Shrine lies in a primeval forest of cedars and a kind of Chinese black pines. The brilliant vermillon edifices are beautifully contrasted with their surrounding greenery. Going through the first and second Torii gates, you can see a lot of stone lanterns standing on both sides of the approach to the shrine. Going on further, you will find the south gate on the left. The main hall is located among trees behind the gate. From the gate a corridor extends to the left and to the right. A great number of lanterns hung from the eaves of the corridor are producing an elegant atmosphere.

In the 3rd year of the Wado era (710), when the capital was transferred to Nara, Fujiwara-no-Fuhito celebrated a mass for tutelary deities of the Fujiwara family, which is considered to be the origin of this shrine. In the 2nd year of the Jingo-Keiun era (768), shrine buildings started to be constructed here. Just like the Kofuku-ji Temple,shrine buildings were added, along with the prosperity of the Fujiwara family. In the first half of the Heian period (794-1192), shrine buildings were completed on the same scale as they are today. After the Middle Ages, the belief was prevalent among commoners, which is shown by the fact that various-shaped hanging lanterns and stone lanterns known as "Mantoro" were mostly the donations from common people.

The tutelary deities enshrined here are Takemikazuchi-no-Mikoto from Kashima of Ibaraki Prefecture, Futsunushi-no-Mikoto from Katori of Chiba Prefecture, Amenokoyane-no-Mikoto and Himegami from Hiraoka of Osaka Prefecture.

Kasuga-yama Hill Primeval Forest

As this is a divine hill of the Kasuga Grand Shrine, the trees in the whole area of the hill behind the shrine have been prohibited from cutting down for more than 1,000 years. The hill is covered with a primeval forest of cedars, firs and cypresses. Rare animals such as a polypedatid and a kind of corbicula (Natural Monument) inhabit the hill, where it is dark even in the daytime because the area is located deep in the forest.

Gango-ji Temple

This edifice used to be a part of the priests' living quarters of the Gango-ji Temple, and was reconstructed as its main hall (National Treasure) and Zen hall (National Treasure) in the Kamakura period (1192-1333). The temple has attracted commoners since the Middle Ages. Numerous stone Buddhas and folk materials were discovered in the precincts. Thanks to the grand repair from the 25th to 29th year of Showa (1950-1954), we can enjoy appreciating the temple structures at the time of the Kamakura period's reconstruction.

In the storehouse are a small wooden five-storied pagoda (National Treasure), a wooden sitting statue of Amida Buddha, Chiko Mandala, an abundance of articles on folk belief, and so on. (10 minutes' walk from Kintetsu Nara Station)

Yakushi-ji Temple

The establishment of the temple started in the 9th year of the Temmu era(680) with the wish of Emperor Temmu that Empress would recover from her illness. With the transfer of the capital to Nara, the temple was moved to the present site in the 2nd year of the Yoro era (718). As for the transfer of the temple, there are two theories, one being that temple buildings and images of Buddha were totally transferred to the present site, and the other going that only the name of the temple was transferred, and temple buildings and images were newly constructed on the present site. If the former theory is correct, the East Pagoda and the Yakushi Triad prove to have been made in the Hakuho period. But if the latter is correct, those are the works of the early Tempyo period. The two theories used to pose a controversial issue for the academic society of art history,but the latter theory has recently been predominant over the former. Two three-storied pagodas (the East Pagoda and the West Pagoda) are placed centering around the Golden Hall and Lecture Hall. The arrangement of the temple buildings is so unique that the style of this temple is called "Yakushi Style". A fire broke out several times and most of the buildings were burned down. The East Pagoda is now the only structure that was constructed at the time of the foundation of the temple. The other buildings including the Golden Hall were reconstructed, and finally in the spring of the 56th year of Showa(1982), the West Pagoda was completed.

The popular visiting course is to start from the station and begin with the Lecture Hall. Another course can be to go through the south gate and then visit the East Pagoda, the West Pagoda, the Golden Hall, the Bussoku-do Hall, Toin-do Hall,and the Lecture Hall in this order. After you finish visiting this temple, why don't you go to Toshodai-ji Temple? (1 minute's walk from Kintetsu Nishinokyo Station)

Toshodai-ji Temple

This temple was founded in the 3rd year of the Tempyo era(759) by the Chinese Buddhist priest Ganjin Wajo, who, with the invitation of Emperor Shomu, came to Japan after going through all sorts of hardships. The whole temple, including the Golden Hall called "Tempyo-no-Iraka," the Lecture Hall and the Treasure Hall, still keeps its original appearance. The temple buildings are beautifully arranged, which shows us broad-mindedness of the people of the Tempyo era.

After the capital was transferred to Kyoto, the temple declined for some time. In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), however, the temple buildings were restored by the priest Kakujo, and in the Edo period, its edifices were repaired. (5 minutes' walk from Kintetsu Nishinokyo Station)

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Arts and Crafts
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Nara is the birthplace of the culture of Japan. Many traditional arts and crafts suited to the natural features and life style of Nara have been handed down to the present day. The techniques of the ancient artists who created the masterpieces designated as Important Cultural Properties have been preserved in this district. These refined techniques can be seen in the splendid works preserved in the Shoso-in (the depository for the treasures of Todaiji Temple) and various temples, shrines and museums. These works are not only magnificent, but also have a feeling of dignity and grace. The artists have given us works containing the essence of Nara, its culture, and its history. Traversing times the spirit of the artisan still exists.

Though early brushes of our country came from Han, Tang-style brushes of Nagaho were introduced by priest Kukai, who learned their making method in China. He is said to have had Sakaina Kiyokawa of Imai in Yamato Province make brushes following the newly-introduced method, and presented them to Emperor Saga and his crown prince.

Offspring of Kiyokawa engaged in brush making in Imai but later the center of brush making moved to Nara, where there was a large production of Sumi (India ink) and a high demand of brushes by temples and shrines.

Kukai's brush had its core made of tight-rolled hemp paper. The core is then covered thinly with hairy cloth. It is called Makifude.

Brushes without a core, which are used today, were first made in Genroku (1688-1704) of the Edo period. Hosoi Kotaku invented Suihitsu, which is made of hard and soft hair mixed and glued into one. Then this style spread, resulting in the manufature of such brushes in many parts of the country. Later other types of brushes called Sabakifude were invented as calligraphy got more popular. Now there are hundreds of types of brushes: large and small, long and short, and soft and hard according to the writing styles.

In October 1977, the Minister of Trade and Industry designated Narafude as "Traditional Art Craft" according to "the law on promotion of the traditional craftwork industry." Unlike Sumi, this type of brush is also produced in Hiroshima, Aichi, Sendai and Niigata, which are major places of production other than Nara nowadays, but Nara is still well-known to be the original place of writing brushes of our country, high-quality goods being its main products.

Nara Sumi ( India ink )

Sumi making is well reputed as a traditional industry in Nara. Its history and the large production of today's Sumi make it unique to Nara. Sumi is classified into two kinds: one is "Shoenzumi" made from burned resin and the other is "Yuenzumi" made by burning rapeseed oil, sesame oil or paulownia oil. The manufacturing process of the so-called Nara Sumi, equivalent to Nanto-Yuenzumi, was brought back by Kukai together with writing brushes when he returned from China as Kentoshi (delegate). In Japan Sumi was first produced at Nitaibo of Kofuku-ji Temple in this method. Though Shoenzumi was produced even after the Fujiwara era in Kishu (Wakayama today) and Omi (Shiga), it was not produced any longer after the Kamakura period.(1192-1333).

Nara Sumi, which was made at Nitaibo, was given a reputation by Matsui Dochin (founder of Kobaien), who also made it into business of private sectors. From then on, one factory was built after another in Nara, which attracted high technology and skilled workers from all over the country, resulting in the decline of other production cities. Nara boasts 90 % of its national production today.

Akahada Yaki( pottery )

In the mid-Edo period, Yanagisawa Gyozan, the owner of the Yamato-Koriyama Castle, invited china artists, Inosuke and Jihei from Kiyomizu, Kyoto, to rekindle the ceramic industry, and he protected and promoted the industry by exclusively using its products. People like Aoki Mokuto, a court doctor,who gained the title "Mokuto" by presenting Rakuyaki ware to Lord Gyozan, and Okuda Mokuhaku, who produced many masterpieces while managing a fancy goodsshop in Yamato-Koriyama City, made Akahada pottery popular nationwide. Today some artists try to give new perspectives to this technology, which is still loved as a native art of Nara.

Nara Sarashi ( Nara Cloth )

Though the origin of Nara Sarashi goes back to the age of Kojiki, or Records of Ancient Matters, it only became widely known in the early Edo period.

Then a man named Kiyosumi Sishiro improved this bleaching technology and gave it a sudden popularity. Until then Sarashi was mainly used for the clothing of priests and later of Bushi (warriers) as the material of their formal suits. Nara Sarashi manufacturing came to be such a big business that Ieyasu Tokugawa picked a habit of using it regularly and had to enforce a law to control its production and sale.

Nara Sarashi sees the completion of its white color and cool touch in the clean stream in the mountains after its pre-refined cloth is carefully woven from hemp thread for about one month. Therefore, Nara Sarashi is said to be given life by water running between mountain rocks, while quality cloth of Echigo is considered in need of good snow.

Because of its clean and elegant texture, it is used not only for the costumes of traditional performing art but for tea ceremony cloths, table centers with designs of treasures at Shoso-in Storehouse, and Noren (cloth dangling at the entrance to a Japanese restaurant).

Koraku Men(Mask)

Masks for Japanese classical music first came from China in the early 7th century (at the reign of Empress Suiko) as part of Buddhist art. Most of them are kept at temples and shrines in Nara today. The first masks to come were "Gigaku-men" for Gigaku (ancient mask show), replaced later by Bugaku (court dance and music) masks called "Bugaku-men." They were followed by "Gyodo-men," which were used at religious events and processions (Gyodo), through which Buddhist merits and ecstacy were given widely to the general public.

In the 11th century, as Nohgaku and Kyogen occurred and developed, uniquely Japanese masks were created. It was not until the modern age that these masks were imitated and made objects of artistic appreciation. Especially after the Second World War, they were no longer mere souvenirs of Nara, but came to be seen as art works of interior decoration and even sold at places like department stores, since people reconsidered ancient fine arts unique to Japan and found them full of conspicuous values. Some artists are active in Nara, making wooden masks usable at Noh and Kyogen stages.

Crafts Crafts Crafts Crafts
Crafts Crafts Crafts Crafts

Nara Ningyo ( Nara Doll )

The colorful dolls that decorated Hanagaza (a hat adorned with flowers) of Den-gaku Hoshi (a performer of ancient ritual music and dancing) or Shimadai (an ornament on a stand representing the Isle of Eternal Youth) at Kasuga Wakamiya Festival, which started in late Heian period, are the first forms of Nara Dolls.

Afterwards, doll making developed as accessories to ceremonies of Kasuga and other shrines. It made rapid progress in the Azuchi-Momoyama period. During this time such rulers as Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu received gifts of dolls from various parts of the country. And "Tamon-in Nikki," or the diary by Tamon-in, says the foremost one from Nara was the Nara doll used for Noh performance and that it decorated wine tables, which were also beautifully colored. This was the time when "Sarugaku Noh," which originated in Sangaku, the oldest form of performing art of Chinese origin, established itself as Nohgaku. Accordingly, Nara dolls, which were for the most part Noh dolls, took their original form.

Around the mid-Edo period, Okano Shoju, whose family had been of doll manipulators for 13 generations, gained Nara dolls fame. And from late Edo through Meiji, Morikawa Toen, who was also a kyogen performer, enhanced the quality of Nara dolls to the level of an art.

Since around this time, Nara dolls have been called "Ittobori" (one cutter carving) and have been used for Kyogen like "Takasago," Bugaku like "Ranryo-oh," animals of Junishi (Oriental Zodiac), but currently, Hina dolls are quite popular as well. Nara dolls' charm lies in the mysterious harmony of their simple figure and their extreme but meticulous colors. Lately original artists of Nara dolls have appeared.

Nara Shikki ( Lacquerware )

The lacquerware technology of our country reached its zenith as part of the Tempyo culture, which flowered together with Buddhism. This art was a mixture of various techniques including those seen in painting with lacquer, Raden (mother-of-pearl work), Hyomon (pasting thin gold or silver plates on lacquer surfaces),etc. All this created very beautiful eye-catching products.Probably, craftsmen of lacquerware came from China when finished products were imported, and they taught their technology in Japan. Many pieces of that age are kept at Shosoin Storehouse in Nara, so Nara is thought to be the birthplace of Japanese lacquerware.

In the Middle Ages, Nurishi (japanner), Urushiya Za (Japanners' union) came into being. Living and working at temples and shrines in Nara as building japanners, these technicians also made lacquer dishes. Some were masters of tea ceremony utensil japanning, while others worked on soldiers weapons.

Later in the Meiji era (post-feudal age) Nara Expo Company was founded, and the First Expo (1876), where precious furniture of Shosoin and other temples and shrines were exhibited, encouraged lacquer painters in Nara to make replicas of the displayed objects, which led to the restoration of Nara lacquerware. Of all kinds of lacquer technologies, Raden-nuri (unique japanningmethods in mother-of-pearl work) is seen exclusively in Nara.

Annual Events

Date(s) Contents Place
Jan. (January) The day before the second-monday Yamayaki [Grass-Burning] Festival on Wakakusa-yama hill Wakakusa-yama hill
Jan.15 OH-CHAMORI (Grand Tea Ceremony) Saidai-ji Temple
1月23日 Konin-e Ceremony Daian-ji
Feb. Feb. 9 ~ Festival of Rice Transplanting Sugawara Shrine
Setsubun Mantoro Kasuga Grand Shrine
Mar. Mar. 1~14 Shuni-e Todai-ji Nigatsu-do Hall
Mar.15 Rice-transplanting Festival (Rice- transplanting Shinto ritual) Kasuga Grand Shrine
Apr. Apr. 2nd Sunday and its Eve OH-CHAMORI (Grand Tea Ceremony) Saidai-ji Temple
May May 1 KENPYO-SAI(Ice Dedication Festival) Himuro Shrine
May 11 & 12 TAKIGI-NOH(Firelight Noh) Kasuga Grand Shrine & Kofoku-ji Temple
May 19 UCHIWA-MAKI (Fan-throwing Ceremony) Toshodai-ji Temple
Jun. Jun. 23 Mass for Bamboos & Incantation against Cancer Daian-ji Temple
Aug. 8/5~8/14 NARA TO-KAE  
Aug. 14 & 15 MAN-TORO (Ten-thousand Lantern Festival) Kasuga Grand Shrine
8/15 DAIMONJI-OKURIBI (Great Bonfire Festival) Ceremony: Tobihino , Bonfire: Mt.Takamado
8/15 Lantern Mass for the Great Buddha's Hall Todai-ji Temple
Aug. 23 & 24 JIZOE-MANTOKUYO Gango-ji
Sep. Full-moon Day of September Uneme Matsuri(Festival for the Consolation of Uneme) Uneme Shrine
Oct. every Sun.& holiday Deer-horn Cutting Ceremony deer pen
Dec. Dec. 17 Kasuga Wakamiya Festival Kasuga Grand Shrine

As Nara is known as the home of Japanese history and culture, it is not surprising that its traditional events, which are carried out throughout the year, are indeed colorful. From the Ceremonial Burning of Wakakusa-yama Hill (whose flames illuminate an evening sky in winter); to the Memorial Water-Drawing Ceremony of Nigatsudo (February Hall); through the summer performances of the Firelight Noh (the perfection of that art, performed with an open-air fire for a background); and the Kasuga Grand Shrine Lantern Lighting Ritual (in which about 3,000 stone and hanging bronze lanterns are all lit at once, forming a simple yet elegant atmosphere); to the Deer Antler Cutting Ceremony in the fall; it is no exaggeration to state that the four seasons are beautifully colored by the numerous traditional events that add a sweet innocence to the charm of Nara.

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By plane

Nara does not have its own airport, so most visitors arrive via Kansai International Airport (change trains in Osaka) or Osaka's Itami Airport.

By train

From Kyoto station, both the JR Nara Line and the private Kintetsu Kyoto line will get you to Nara quickly. Kintetsu is slightly cheaper and Kintetsu Nara station is better located that JR Nara, but travellers may have to change at Yamato Saidaiji for the last hop into town.
The fastest route from Osaka is to take the private Kintetsu Nara Line from Namba station. If using the Japan Rail Pass, you can also travel on JR from Tennoji via Oji, but this adds a bit of a detour and takes longer.

Getting Around Nara

Nara's public transportation system is limited to buses. The ¥100 shuttle bus provides a cheap and cheerful service from the Kintetsu train station to many points of interest in central Nara. Once within Nara Park, you can simply walk to almost all the sites.

From Osaka

  • Kintetsu Namba --> Kaisoku-kyuko [Rapid Service Express] --> (Kintetsu Nara Line) 32 minutes --> Kintetsu Nara
  • Hommachi --> (Subway / Kintetsu Higashi-osaka Line) 30 minutes --> transrate to Kintetsu Nara line at Ikoma , Ikoma --> Kaisoku-kyuko (Kintetsu Nara Line) 12 minutes --> Kintetsu Nara
  • JR Osaka --> Nonstop Kaisoku [Rapid Service] (Osaka Loop Line / Yamatoji Line) 48 minutes --> JR Nara

From Kansai Airport

  • Kansai Airport --> (Kansai-kuko Line) 29 minutes --> Tennoji --> Kaisoku (Yamatoji Line) 29 minutes --> JR Nara
  • Kansai Airport --> Nankai RAPI:T (Nankai Line) 29 minutes --> Namba --> Limited Express (Kintetsu Nara Line) 31 minutes --> Kintetsu Nara
  • Kansai Airport --> Limousin Bus (about 95minutes)--> Bus Stop: JR Nara
From Osaka Airport(Itami Airport)
  • Osaka Airport(Itami Airport) --> Airport Bus (about 30 minutes) --> Kintetsu Uehommachi --> Kaisoku kyuko (Kintetsu Nara Line) 29 minutes --> Kintetsu Nara
From Osaka Nanko (South Port)
  • Osaka Nanko --> Ferry Terminal --> (New-tram) 9 minutes --> Suminoe-koen --> (Osaka City Subway) 13 minutes --> Tennoji --> Kaisoku (Yamatoji Line) 29 minutes --> JR Nara
  • Osaka Nanko --> Ferry Terminal --> (New-tram) 9 minutes --> Suminoe-koen --> (Osaka City Subway) 13 minutes --> Namba --> Kaisoku Kyuko (Kintetsu Nara Line) 32 minutes --> Kintetsu Nara

From Kyoto

  • Kintetsu Kyoto --> Limited Express: 33 minutes / Express: 41 minutes (Kintetsu Kyoto Line) --> Kintetsu Nara
  • JR Kyoto --> Local Train (JR Nara Line) 58 minutes --> JR Nara

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Map of Nara



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