Nara is the capital city of Nara prefecture located in Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara prefecture bordering Kyoto Prefecture. The city is also noted for it’s natural beauty and has the largest number of buildings designated as national treasure in Japan. In the modern age as the seat of prefectual government, Nara has developed into a local center of commerce and government. The city was officially incorporated on February 1st 1898.
Nara was the first capital establishes in the year 710. The city was modeled after the Chinese T’ang dynasty capital Ch’ang-an. The Buddhist monasteries were built in the new capital, signification and Buddhism were most highly developed. Chinese language and literature were studied intensively. The Chinese characters were adapted to the Japanese language. Eventually the chinese influence gradually started to decline many of the important ideas were changed in order to meet particular Japanese needs, several governmental offices were established in addition to the government offices were established in addition to the government system which was copied after Chinese model.
The Fujiwara family controlled the political scene of the Heian period over several centuries through strategic intermarriages with the imperial family and by occupying all the important political offices in Kyoto and the major provinces. The power of the clan reached its peak with Fujiwara Michinaga in the year 1016. After Michinaga, however, the ability of the Fujiwara leaders began to decline, and public order could not be maintained.
The Fujiwara supremacy came to an end in 1068 when the new emperor Go-Sanjo was determined to rule the country by himself, and the Fujiwara failed to control him. In the year 1086 Go-Sanjo abdicated but continued to rule from behind the political stage.In the 12th century, two military families with aristocratic backgrounds gained much power: the Minamoto (or Genji) and Taira (or Heike) families. The Taira replaced many Fujiwara nobles in important offices while the Minamoto gained military experience by bringing parts of Northern Honshu under Japanese control.
After the Heiji Rising (1159), a struggle for power between the two families, Taira Kiyomori evolved as the leader of Japan and ruled the country from 1168 to 1178 through the emperor.After Kiyomori’s death, the Taira and Minamoto clans fought a deciding war for supremacy, the Gempei War, which lasted from 1180 to 1185. By the end of the war, the Minamoto were able to put an end to Taira supremacy, and Minamoto Yoritomo succeeded as the leader of Japan, he was appointed Shogun (highest military officer) and established a new government in his home city Kamakura.
Places Not To Miss:
Todai-Ji is a Buddhist temple complex, that was once one of the powerful seven great temples located in the city of Nara. It’s great Buddha hall houses the worlds largest statue of the Buddha, Vairocana known in Japanese as Daibutsu.
The beginning of building temple where the Todai-Ji Complex sits today can be dated to 728AD. Emperor Shomu established Kinshosen-Ji as an appeasement for prince Motoi, his first son who died a year after his birth. Later in 741 AD the construction of provincial temple was promoted throughout the nation and Todai-Ji was the appointed as the provincial temple and head of all provincial temples.
According to the legend, the monk Gyoki went to Ise grand shrine to reconcile Shinto with Buddhism, he spent seven days and nights reciting sutras until an oracle declared Vairocona Buddha compatible with the worship of the Sun goddess Amaterasu.
Japanese Buddhism during this time still maintained the lineage of the Vinaya and officially licensed monks had to take their ordination under Vinaya at Tidai-ji.
As the center of power in Japanese Buddhism shifted away from Nara to Mount Hiei later Tendai sect and when the capital of Japan moved to Kamakura, Todaiji’s role in maintaining authority declined as well.
Today the temple serves as the headquaters of the Kegon school of Buddhism and is listed UNESCO world heritage site.
Sika Deer In Nara Park:
Nara park is located in the center of the city of Nara located at the foot of mount Wakakusa established in 1880. The park is one of the places of scenic beauty designated by ministry of education, vulture sports, science and technology. Over 1,200 Sika deer graze along the spacious laws and frolic on the grass.
Another major attraction of the park is the Kofuku-ji a temple built by the Fujiwara clan in the early 8th century. The official size of the park is 502 hectare, the area including the grounds of Todai-Ji and Kasuga shrine which are on either edge or surrounded by Nara park the area is estimated around 602 hectare.
According to the local folklore deer from this area were considered scared due to a visit from Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, one of the four gods of Kasuga shrine. He was said to have been invited from Kashima Ibaraki and appeared on mount Mikasa riding a white deer. As the deer were considered as divine and sacred, killing one of these deer was considered capital offence punishable by death until 1637 when the last offence was recorded.
After world war 2, the deer were stripped of their sacred/divine status and were instead designated as national treasure and are protected as such.
Kofuki-Ji is a Buddhist temple that was once one of the powerful seven great temples in the city of Nara, Japan. Kofuki-Ji used to be the family temple of the Fujiwara, the most powerful family clan during the earlier periods of Nara.
Kofuki-Ji has it’s origin as a temple that was established in 669 by Kagami-No-Okimi wishing for her husband’s recovery from illness.nThe temple was finally established in Nara at the same time as the capitalin 710 after being moved twice. Kafuku-Ji temple enjoyed prosperity for as long as the Fujowara family did. The temple was not only an important center for the Buddhist religion but also retained influence over the imperial government.
The temple was damaged and destroyed by civil wars and fires many times and rebuilt many times as well. Today a couple of buildings of the great historic value remain, including a five story Pagoda and it is Japan’s second tallest Pagoda.
Kasuya Taisha Grand Shrine:
Kasuya Taisha is most celebrated shrine in Nara prefecture, Japan. Established in the 768 AD at the same as the capital and is dedicated to the deity responsible for the protection of the city. Kasuya Taisha was also tutelary shrine of the Fujiwara family. In case of Kasuya taisha, however the custom was disconnected at the end of Edo period. Like the Ise shrines, Kasuya Taisha had been periodically rebuilt every 20 years for many centuries .
The interior of the shrine is famous for it’s many bronze lanterns which have been donated by the worshipers. Hundreds of bronze lanterns can be found hanging form the buildings, while as many lanterns line it’s approaches. The shrine became the object of patronage during the early Heian period. In 965, Murakami ordered that imperial messengers were sent to report important events to the Kami if Japan.
Kasuya shrine and the Kasugayama primeval forest near it are registered as world as UNESCO world heritage.
The lanterns in the temple are lit only twice in a year during two lantern festival, one in early February and one in mid August.
Higashimuki Shotengai is a shopping arcade leading South from Kintetsu Nara station towards Nara-machi. Here you will find lots of cafes, restaurants and shops.This is one of the most popular street.