Also known as Sangatsu-dō (三月堂), this is the oldest building in the Tōdai-ji complex, dating to the mid-8th century. Inside are 10 statues from the Nara period (710–94), all National Treasures; the principal image is Fukūkensaku Kannon, one of the forms of the Buddhist goddess of mercy, nearly 4m tall, with eight arms and a jewelled crown.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Nara attractions

1. Nigatsu-dō

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Climb the lantern-lined staircase to Nigatsu-dō, a National Treasure from 1669 (originally built c 750). Though the interior is private, the verandah has…

2. Tamukeyama-hachimangū

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South of Nigatsu-dō and Sangatsu-dō is this historic shrine dedicated to the Shintō god of war and protector of Japan.

3. Tōdai-ji

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Nara's star attraction is its Daibutsu (Great Buddha), one of the largest bronze statues in the world. It was unveiled in 752, upon the completion of the…

4. Tōdai-ji Museum

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The most recent building on the grounds of Tōdai-ji is the contemporary museum built to display more of the temple's important artwork and relics.

5. Tōdai-ji Nandai-mon

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The great south gate of Tōdai-ji contains two fierce-looking Niō (guardians). These recently restored wooden images, carved in the 13th century by famed…

6. Isui-en & Neiraku Art Museum


Isui-en is an elegant garden in two parts: one created in the 17th century, in the style of an Edo-period (1603–1868) strolling garden, and another added…

7. Yoshiki-en

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This garden was once part of Kofuku-ji and since 1919 has been a public garden, laid out in traditional fashion along paths around a pond. Most attractive…

8. Nara National Museum

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This world-class museum of Buddhist art is divided into two sections. Built in 1894 and strikingly renovated in 2016, the Nara Buddhist Sculpture Hall &…