Nara Park is a city park in Nara Prefecture and the official name is ‘Nara Prefectural City Park Nara'. The park covers an area of 502 square meters and is one of the biggest city parks in Japan. If the area of the park were to include the surrounding temples and shrines, it would be over 660 hectares. Usually, the area including the temple and shrine is called Nara Park.
The area includes famous temples and shrines like Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple and Kasuga Shrine. In addition, there is a primeval forest on Mt Kasuga. These have been designated as World Heritage sites, as well as cultural assets of the ancient capital, Nara.
Many deer wander freely in Nara Park and they are supposed to be servants of Kasuga Shrine and are allowed.
In early August, the Nara Candle and Flower Festival is held and people place candles at every spot in the park as decoration. The festival is quite new but has proved popular among tourists.
Unpenji Temple belongs to the Omuro school of the Shingon Buddhist sect. It is located in Ikeda-cho, Miyoshi, Tokuyama Prefecture, and is the 66th temple out of 88 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The principal image (gohonzon) of the temple is of the bodhisattva Senju Kannon (Sahasrabhuja).
The temple is on Mt Unpenji (927m high) and is also known as Shikoku-Kouya. The temple site covers a 40ha2 area and is surrounded by ancient cedar, cypress, fir and hemlock trees.
Unpenji was founded by the then 16-year-old monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi), who was moved by the aura of the mountains here. In the year 807, Kukai received an order from the Emperor Saga and climbed up the mountain to the temple again. There, he sculpted the Senju Kannon figure and enshrined it with Buddhist relics and gems. The area thus became a place of pilgrimage.
Later, the temple became famous as an academic institution, then as a monastery, and finally as a prayer hall for the Minesuga clan. The temple declined, however, over the years, and is now much smaller. The temple lies in a world above clouds. Mists cover the surrounding mountains and create a mysterious atmosphere for this pilgrimage site.
Tairyuji temple is located near the summit of Mt Tairyuji in Wajiki, Tokushima Prefecture. It belongs to the Koyasan Shingon sect. The temple is devoted to the bodhisattva Kokuzo Bosattsu (Akasagarbha) and is the 21st temple on the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
From ancient times, the temple was known as West Kouno. It is written in the 'Sangoushiiki' that in 793, the 19-year-old monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi) mastered the mantra of the Akasagarbha bodhisattva after 100 days of ascetic training at Tairyugatake.
It is believed that Tairyuji and Muroto played an important role in forming the beliefs of young Daishi.
The mountain may be called a spiritual place due to the density of the ancient Japanese cedar and cypress. The presence of buildings like the main temple, Daishido, Tahoto, Gumonido, Roumon, Gomado and Rokkaku-kyouzo also help create a magnificent ambience.
Growing around the temple throughout the four seasons are mountain flora such as rhododendron, hydrangea, maple and camellia, which provide a beautiful sight for travelers.