Lonely Planet review
The Nara National Museum is devoted to Buddhist art and is divided into two sections, housed in different buildings. Built in 1894, the Nara Buddhist Sculpture Hall & Ritual Bronzes Gallery contains a fine collection of butsu-zō (statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas). The Buddhist images here are divided into categories, each with an excellent English explanation, making this an excellent introduction to Mahayana Buddhist iconography. The newer East and West wings, a short walk away, contain the permanent collections (sculptures, paintings and calligraphy) and are used for special exhibitions.
A special exhibition featuring the treasures of the Shōsō-in Hall , which holds the treasures of Tōdai-ji, is held in the newer wings from late October to early November (call the Nara City Tourist Information Centre to check, as these dates vary slightly each year). The exhibits include priceless items from the cultures along the Silk Road. If you are in Nara during these periods and are a fan of Japanese antiquities, you should make a point of visiting the museum, but be prepared for crowds. Admission is ¥1000. Enter by 4.30pm.