Todaiji (Great Eastern Temple) is a Buddhist temple complex located in very historical city called Nara.
The Temple complex consists of various buildings and the entire complex is registered as UNESCO’s World Heritage.
Among those buildings, the most famous and significant is Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall), Todaiji’s main hall which houses Daibutsu (large statue of Buddha).
The Daibutsuden is the world’s largest wooden building, despite the fact that the present building was reconstructed in 1692 decreasing its width to only two thirds of original hall’s size.
In 745, the imperial edict by the Emperor Shomu to build the Daibutsu (large statue of Buddha) gone forth.
2 years later, construction of the Daibutsuden was started and completed in 751, a year before the Daibutsu was casted completely.
Todaiji, including the Daibutsuden, was partially burned down twice in 1180 and 1567 however it was reconstructed after both time.
After the Daibutsuden and the Daibutsu were partially burned down in 1567, both the building and the statue were left as damaged for more than 100 years due to lack of budget, but they were finally reconstructed in 1692. Hokkedo hall, Tengaimon gate, and Shosoin storage are the only buildings remain as original.
The most of the people visit the Daibutsuden are amazed by the size of the Daibutsu which is 15 meter tall.
Visiters can physically experience how large the Daibutsu is by squeezing themselves through a hole on one of the pillar inside the Daibutsuden.
This hole is the same size as the Daibutsu’s nostril and it is said to be that if one can go through the hole, that person can shake their bad luck off and will be blessed with good luck and sound health.
On the approaching way to the Daibutsuden, the Nandaimon gate welcomes you.
This large wooden gate is the main gate of Todaiji and it is watched over by two fiercely strong looking wooden statues.
They are Nio Guardian Kings. These statues are 8.4 meter tall, the largest wooden statues in Japan. The great temple complex and the Daibutsu are protected by those two great guardian kings.
The Daibutsuden and the Namdaimon gate are lighten up at night (from 7pm to 10pm) during Summer time from July to September.
Besides the Daibutsuden, there are more beautiful halls that worth a little walk. On the east side of Todaiji, there are the Hokkedo (also known as Sangatsudo) hall and the Nigatsudo hall.
Hokkedo hall is the oldest building among all in Todaiji and it existed even before Todaiji complex was built.
Nigatsudo hall is located at the east end of Todaiji. Since the hall stands on upper hill, its balcony offers the great view point to look over the city of Nara.
The hall is known well as very important site for the ceremony called “Omizutori” which is to pray for world peace and bumper crop. In Nara, it is said that when “Omizutori” is over, Spring will come soon. The “Omizutori” ceremony is held annually from March 1st to 14th.
Another significant building in Todaiji temple complex is called Shosoin, a storage for treasures. Although it is currently managed by the Imperial Household Agency, Shosoin was originally a storage building of Todaiji in which to store precious objects and offerings and managed by the temple as well.
The precious treasures stored in Shosoin include historical paintings, calligraphy, metal works, lacquer works, wooden works, swords, potteries, glass works, musical instruments, and mask from both Japan and around the world.
Among all those precious pieces, one of the most distinguishing treasure is called Shosoin Documents that play very important role in a research of past eras.
Normally those treasure in Shosoin are not open to public.
However some part of the collection had been exhibited only for selected crowd at special occasion.
In 1946, special exhibition were held for open public to exhibit its partial collection which were getting periodic freshen up in an open air.
This special exhibition were held at The Nara National Museum and became the first one of annual exhibition currently called “Shosoin Exhibit”.
Every year this exhibition show cases about 70 pieces out of over 9000 pieces of treasure stored in the Shosoin.
So it will take several years to see all the major pieces.
The New attraction opened in Todaiji complex is the Todaiji Museum.
The Museum exhibits large collection of religious statues, art, and cultural treasures that could not be seen before in the halls originally located in.
It is located inside Todaiji Cultural Center which also includes Todaiji Library, History Research Center, shops, and café.
Todaiji is located in the northern part of the large park called Nara Koen (Nara Park) which is also the location for many other famous historical attraction of Nara including Kofukuji, Kasuga Taisha, Nara National Museum, Mt. Wakakusa, Ukimido, and Sarusawa pond.
This large park and mountains are home to hundreds of freely roaming half-wild deer.
Those deer are very important for the people of Nara because they are considered to be messenger of God and guardians of the entire city of Nara.
Most of the time those deer are friendly enough to let people touch them.
Shika Senbei (crackers for deer) can be purchased at kiosk in the park to feed the deer. When deer comes around begging for snack, put the cracker above their head.
This trick will make the deer nod their heads up and down to “beg for the snack”!
But just be really careful because those deer are so smart that they notice you have the crackers as soon as you go to kiosk to buy one.
Sometime you might get surrounded by too many impatient deer and get kicked, bitten, or attacked by them!
During Spring time Nara Park is filled with beautiful pink and white Cherry blossoms and during Autumn, the park is filled with so many different colors with autumn leaves.
Visitors will definitely enjoy walking from temples to another within this lovely park.
Our WiFi is available in this area.
Jan. 17th, 2015