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Along the foot of Mt. Wakakusa is the Kasuga Grand Shrine, established to house the Shinto deities of the powerful Fujiwara family.
It has been a place of worship for both emperors and aristocrats for centuries. The main approach from the east (from Kofukuji temple) is lined with thousands of stone lanterns set amid lush greenery.
These are illuminated in dramatic crowd-drawing ceremonies held in early February and mid-August every year. The shrine's renowned Treasure House is one of the newest here, with wooden plaques in the shape of rice paddles reflecting the importance of rice in Shinto—and, by definition, Japanese—culture.
A rice-planting ceremony is held in mid-March, during which the shrine's sacred rice field is symbolically replanted.
This is originally built part of museum. It is connected by a subterranean tunnel to a newer, tile-roofed structure just beyond it.
This museum of ancient art displays Buddhist statues and sculptural types from around the year 600 through the Middle Ages.
The permanent collection is housed in the old wing, and its fascinating exhibits showcase the development of Chinese influenced Buddhist art and design.
The gift shop in the underpass between the two buildings offers an excellent selection of quality souvenirs, reproductions, and posters of Nan culture.
Found in the Nara Park and at the edge of the Sarusawa-ike pond is Kofukuji temple. It's impressive 50 metre or 165 foot, pagoda with 5 floors.
It is Japan's second-largest after the Toji pagoda which is located in Kyoto.
It is undoubtedly one of Nara's most photographed places. The present structure, which is still very old, as it dates from 1426, replacing some 5 pagodas each one destroyed by fire and then rebuilt.
In the past Kofukuji has comprised around 175 buildings, most of which have been lost. These include the Kasuga Grand Shrine, with which it has been closely associated for well over a thousand years. This is found at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa.
The surviving artworks of Kofukuji and other artifacts are housed in its newest building, the Museum of National Treasures. This is now a fire-proof building which was constructed in 1958 to honour Kofukuji's cultural and historic importance.
Nigatsu-do (Second Month Hall), one of Todaiji's most famous sub-temples, whose front portion rests on a vast network of wooden beams. The covered northern staircase and the broad stone southern staircase both lead up to the main walkway encircling the temple, which has massive lanterns and a strange assortment of artwork donated by supporting companies.
Nigatsu-do hosts a spectacular fire purification festival in the second month of the lunar calendar (hence its name): the O-mizu Torii, or Water-Drawing Festival.
Every night for two weeks, temple priests brandish long poles each with a flaming cedar ball at the end. They run along the front of the verandah, deliberately showering the large crowd below with burning embers that are believed to bring good luck for the coming year, burning away transgressions from the previous one. In long-exposure photographs, the entire temple appears to be on fire.
Found on the west side of Nara Park is Todaiji, which—like many elaborate temple complexes—comprises many remarkable structures and artifacts.
Here you will find the majestic Nandaimon. standing over 19 m (63 ft) high and dating from 1199. Built in a classical Indian architectural style, this huge structure is only two-thirds the size of the original destroyed by a typhoon in 962.
The gate houses the two Benevolent Kings, guardian deities created in the twelfth century by master sculptors Unkei and Kaikei to guard the inner temple compound.
Pass through the gate (it means Great South Gate in Japanese) for your first view of the massive roof of the Daibutsuden straight ahead. This build, constructed around 1709, is only ⅔rds of the first one which was destroyed by fire decades before.
On the right of the door is Binzuru, a disciple of Prince Gautama (the Buddha's original name before achieving enlightenment). His statue is said to have special healing powers; sections of the statue shine with the polish of thousands—if not millions—of hands rubbing away ailments over the centuries.
At last you find Dalbutsu or Great Buddha inside a huge hall, in the oft-depicted posture of deep contemplation on a giant platform within a loop of massive lotus leaves.
At almost 15 metre, or just under 50 foot tall, the enormous bronze statue is somewhat shorter than the first one which constructed and covered in gold leaf, in the year 752. As with all Buddha images the positions of the hands are highly significant.
The Great Buddha's right hand is bestowing spiritual tranquility, while the left symbolizes the granting of wishes. Seated on one side is the Nyorin Kannon, in whose hand is a jewel used to answer prayers and grant wishes; on the other is Kokuzo, who embodies wisdom and happiness.
For anyone interested in the history of Japanese art and culture, no visit will be complete bereft of a tour of Nara. Note that as well as it's magnificent cultural treasures; Nara offers the unlikely phenomenon of the world's most aggressive deer.
Although Kyoto endures as Japan's major historical and cultural centre, Japanese tourists, and you too should equally revere this the Kansai region's other fasinating historical center.
Exchange rate fluctuations can have a considerable impact on your trip budget. If your home currency has appreciated in value in the recent term over the currency of your destination you are likely to find the place inexpensive.
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Do you know of anything else about the enviroment that makes you happy to come to Shinyakushi-ji? If it's a city or neighbourhood are there any climatic, or microclimatic features that you could tell others about. If the location is a building or place, then can you describe it maybe as "sun-lit", or "cold in the mornings". We'd love you to contribute - why not let us know in the drop box below
Graphic showing average weather in Shinyakushi-ji in Celcius and Centimeters (Change to Farenheit and Inches)
|Month||Temp °C||Rainfall Cm||Temp °F||Rainfall Inches|
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