Kasuga Taisha

Top choice in Nara

Founded in the 8th century, this sprawling shrine at the foot of Mikasa-yama was created to protect the new capital, Nara. It was ritually rebuilt every 20 years, according to Shintō tradition, until the late 19th century and is still kept in pristine condition. Many of its buildings are painted vermilion, in bold contrast to the cedar roofs and surrounding greenery. The corridors are lined with hundreds of lanterns, which are illuminated during the twice-yearly Mantōrō lantern festival.

Every morning at 9am (except for festival days), the public is welcome to observe the chōhai (morning prayer service), held in the Naoraiden (Ceremony Hall).

There are several subshrines around the main hall. It's worth walking a few minutes south to the nearby subshrine of Wakamiya-jinja.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Nara attractions

1. Ni-no-Torii

0.11 MILES

A large ceremonial Shintō shrine gate within the shrine precincts of Kasuga Taisha.

2. Wakamiya-jinja

0.17 MILES

A subshrine of Kasuga Taisha, founded in 1135 and reconstructed in 1863.

3. Tamukeyama-hachimangū

0.48 MILES

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

4. Hokke-dō

0.55 MILES

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…

5. Tōdai-ji Nandai-mon

0.57 MILES

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. Nigatsu-dō

0.58 MILES

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…

7. Tōdai-ji Museum


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.

8. Isui-en & Neiraku Art Museum

0.64 MILES

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…