In the south of the center of Nara City, Nara is the area developed around the Gankou-ji Temple, an area vibrant with old houses and temples. This area is called Nara-machi and it is the oldest town in Nara. Nara-machi is designated and preserved as an Area of Traditional Buildings.
The town escaped the fires of the Second World War and it carefully preserves its landscape and old, charming buildings, which were built during the end of the Edo and Meiji periods.
Nara-machi was initially developed as a suburb with some significant temples in the northeast area of Heijyou-kyou. Heijyou-kyou had been the capital city of Japan from 710 to 794. When the capital was transferred to Nagaoka-kyou, Heijyou-kyou declined, but the temples remained and the people who worked for those temples continued to live in the area around Toudai-ji Temple and Koufuku-ji Temple. The residents eventually developed it into a merchant district called a “gou”.
Within Nara-machi, is Nara-machi Shiryoukan, a museum of Nara-Machi’s history, which exhibits such items as the daily utensils used in the old times. Another notable building is Nara-machi Koushi-no-ie, a lattice-worked building that has a traditional building layout with a small frontage and deep interior. Walking through the buildings and the streets, visitors can enjoy the appearance of the city as it was originally.
The Kofuku-ji Temple, located in Nobori Ooji-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture, is a head temple of the Hosso-shu Buddhism sect and it was a private temple of the Fujiwara Clan. The principal image of the Buddha is Shakanyorai. The temple is 9th in sequence of the 33-temple Kannon pilgrimage and 4th of the 49-temple Yakushi Pilgrimage in Western Japan.
Koufuku-ji Temple was originally built in 669 by the wife of Fujiwara Kamatari under the name of Yamanashi-dera in Yamashina-ku, Kyoto City. It was transferred by Fujiwarano Fuhito to its present location and renamed Koufuku-ji.
Ooyu-ya is a medieval style bathhouse standing in the east of the Gojyuuno-to, or Five-story Pagoda. It is not known in which year the bathhouse was built, however, the current building was reportedly restored in 1426. It is now designated as a national important cultural property.
The bathhouse is 7 meters wide north to south and 7 meters wide east to west with a Hongawara tile roof. The west side of the bathhouse has the Irimoya roof style and the east side has the Kirimoya roof style. Inside the bathhouse are two gigantic iron pots that are used to make steam for a steam bath.
After the Middle Ages, the bathhouse was also used as a meeting place for public uprisings.
The bathhouse is tremendously valuable as an example of bathhouse architecture from the Middle Ages.
“The Saikyo Bridge” is actually a very unique rock located at Yamakuni-machi-Nakama, in Nakatsu City, Oita Pref. A large hole was made in the rock by long-time erosion and it looks like a huge stone bridge or a huge dragon lying across a valley. This unique rock is the product of nature’s everlasting power or quite literally an act of god in nature. The rock is also called “Sennin-hari (Sennin’s beam),” “Sennin-iwa (Sennin Rock),” or “Amenoiwato (the stone door to the heaven).” There is a cave with 1 m mouth at the bottom of the rock. The name “Amenoiwato” may have been derived from this cave. Inside the cave there is an empty space of about 2.5 m in height and depth, where ancient mountain practitioners supposedly trained themselves. Looking up at this natural rock bridge, produced by nature and immemorial time, we can’t help but realize how slowly time passes in the universe compared with the restless time we spend every day.
Butsuryuji Temple is a Shingon Buddhist temple located in Uda, Nara. It is a branch temple as well as the south gate of Muroji Temple.
The temple was founded in the third year of the Kasho period (850) by the priest Kenne and is said to have been originally a house belonging to Shuen, an officer of Kofukuji Temple.
There is an 11-faced Kannon bosatsu statue in the center of the temple, which is reputed to have been made by Shotoku Taishi. The temple also holds the remains of a rare pyramidal-roofed stone hut: the grave of Kenne.
This temple is famous for being the place where Japanese tea was first made. Kenne planted tea leaves that Kukai, his master, had brought from China. Here are the remains, too, of a millstone that Kukai brought back from China.
The flight of stone stairs leading up from the gate is one of the most famous in Japan: in spring, 900-year-old cherry trees welcome you, while in autumn, red clusters of amaryllis add color along the way to the temple. The views are beyond words.
Nanendou Hall (Southern Octagonal Hall) is a temple building within the Koufuku-ji Temple complex and is located in Nara City, Nara Prefecture. The hall was founded in 813 by Fujiwara Fuyutsugu in honor of his father, Fujiwara Uchimaro,. The hall is designated as a National Treasure by the Japanese government. Nanendou is one of an opposing pair of octagonal halls, the other being Hokuendou( Northern Octagonal Hall). The hall was damaged by fire and the present reconstruction dates back to the Edo period. Nanendou enshrines the main altar piece of Fukuukensaku-kannonbosatsu which stands 3.4 meters high and was made by Koukei, father of Unkei, a prominent sculptor. On the right side of the hall is a wisteria trellis which is designated as one of Nara’s Eight Great Views. The lantern at the center of the hall is relatively new having been created during the current Heisei period. It bears an inscription selected by Chin Shunshin, a popular writer of historical novels. Koufuku-ji has a busy, down-to-earth atmosphere and is constantly filled with visitors following West Japan’s 33 temple pilgrimage route (Koufukuji is the 9th temple on this route). Nanendou however is only open to the public once a year, on October 17.
Koufuku-ji Temple, located in Noboriouji-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture, is one of the head temples of Hosso Buddhism which has boasts nearly 1300 years of history. It reportedly dates back to the Nara period when, following the relocation of the capital to Heijyoukyou (present day Nara), Fujiwara Fuhito moved Umayasaka-dera Temple in Asuka to its present site and changed its name to Koufuku-ji Temple. As the prosperity of the Fujiwara clan grew, Koufuku-ji Temple became both powerful and influential. The temple was one of the "Four Great Temples" of the Nara period and one of the "Seven Great Temples" of the Heian period. Its prosperity was so great that the temple was even appointed as Shugo-shoku, the Protector’s Office, to maintain peace in Yamato (present day Nara) during the Kamakura period. Nanendou (Southern Octagonal Hall) is the 9th temple on West Japan’s thirty-three temple pilgrimage route, and is designated as a World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.
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.
Old Daijoin Garden consists of the traces of a garden at Daijoin Temple in Nara Prefecture.
In the first year of the Kanji period (1087), Daijoin was built as a Monzeki temple of Kofukuji, one of the seven major Nanto temples. In the fourth year of the Jisho period (1180), it was burnt down during the attack on Nara by Taira-no-Shigehira. It was subsequently renovated at its present place. In the third year of the Hotoku period (1451), it was burnt down again, but Jinson, a monk of Daijoin, rebuilt it and it was Zeami who made a garden at that time.
Daijoin Garden remained as the best garden in Nanto until the end of the Edo period. In the Meiji period, because of the government's oppression of Buddhism, it disappeared. In 1909, the site was reused as part of the Nara Hotel.
Now, the garden is being renovated and you can see some parts of it at the Daijoin Garden Museum, to the south of the garden.