Top things to do in Nara

Top Choice Buddhist Temple in Nara

Tōdai-ji

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 Daibutsu-den (大仏殿, Great Buddha Hall), built to house it. Bot…
Top Choice Buddhist Temple in Nara

Hōryū-ji

Hōryū-ji was founded in 607 by Prince Shōtoku, considered by many to be the patron saint of Japanese Buddhism. It's renowned not only as one of the oldest temples in Japan but also as a repository for some of the co…
Top Choice Museum in Nara

Nara National Museum

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 & Ritual Bronzes Gallery displays a rotating selection of ab…
Top Choice Shinto Shrine in Nara

Kasuga Taisha

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 c…
Buddhist Temple in Nara

Yakushi-ji

Yakushi-ji was established by Emperor Temmu in 680 as a prayer for his ailing wife (who actually outlived him to accede to the throne). With the exception of the East Pagoda, which dates to 730 (and is under scaffol…
Buddhist Temple in Nara

Kōfuku-ji

Kōfuku-ji was founded in Kyoto in 669 and relocated here in 710. The original Nara temple complex had 175 buildings, though much has been lost over the years to fires and periods of medieval warfare. Of those that r…
Buddhist Temple in Nara

Tōshōdai-ji

Tōshōdai-ji was established in 759 by influential Chinese priest Ganjin (Jian Zhen), recruited by Emperor Shōmu to reform Buddhism in Japan. The main building, the Kondō (Golden Hall), dates from the 8th century and…
Museum in Nara

Kōfuku-ji National Treasure Museum

Reopened in 2018, this compact museum houses Kōfuku-ji's most important works of art, many of which date to the 8th century (and have managed to survive destruction over the ages). If you're interested in Buddhist s…
Buddhist Temple in Nara

Tōdai-ji Nandai-mon

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 sculptor Unkei, are among the finest examples of guardian stat…
Cultural in Nara

Yamayaki

Though the origins of this festival are unclear (it's possibly a nod to a long-ago feud between the monks of Tōdai-ji and Kōfuku-ji), Nara's three big religious institutions, Tōdai-ji, Kōfuku-ji and Kasuga Taisha, c…