Nara Prefecture is in the Central part of the Kinki District, and is an Inland Region. In the Southern part of the region, The Yoshino River flows from east to west. The North side of the river is the Nara basin , and the South side is Yoshino Mountainous region.
The Nara basin covers an area of 300 sq. km. or about 10 percent of the prefecture, extending 10 km. from East to West and 30 km. from South to North. On the eastern part of the basin, the Yamato highland and Uda mountainous region lie.
The Southern part is dotted with the Yamato Sanzan or three mountains of Unebi-yama, Miminashi-yama and Amano Kagu-yama. The Western part is partitioned off from the Osaka plain by Mount Ikoma and Mount Kongo, and the Northern part from a low hill called Narayama. This Low hill was the traffic road to the Yamashiro basin of Kyoto over the Utahime Pass and Narazaka Pass. Going up the the Kizu river , which runs out on the Yamashiro basin, leads to the Iga District of Ise. The Iga district, which is between Yamato and the Ise Provinces, played the part of passage belt to link the two provinces since ancient times.
The climmate of the Nara Basin is of the Inland type, the temperature here varies greatly with the seasons, but it is generally mild. Annual rainfall is only 1400 mm and pluvial from June to September. Because the Basin has a long drought, there are many irrigation reservoirs. The average temperature is 14°C to 15°C, 28 °C in August, 4°C in January and the annual differential is 24°C to 25°C. While the Southern area has the mountainous climate of the Pacific side of Japan, and is an area of high rain fall. The annual rain fall there is 2500 mm to 3000 mm and the precipitation at the Odai-Gahara plain register about 4700 mm, The snow lay 1 meter deep in some places, with an average depth only 3 cm.
Places of Interest
1. Nara Park (奈良公園）(10-minute-walk from Kintetsu Nara Station)
Nara Park covers a space of about 5.25 square km, extending 4 km from East to West, 2 km from South to North. This vast park is finely wooded with various kinds of trees, including huge Japanese Cedars, Oaks and Wisterias. Many places of interest such as Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple , Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Wakakusa and Mikasa hills are in the park. Thus in the restful atmosphere the natural beauty and classical structures are forming a beautiful contrast. In addition to this more than 1,000 tame deer give pleasure to the tourist by roaming in the park. So the park is popularly known among foreigners as Deer Park.
Why does Nara Park have so many deer?
According to the legend, when the Fujiwara family established Kasuga Shrine as their tutelary shrine they hailed the deity, Takemikazuchi-no-Mikoto from the Kashima Jingu Shrine in Ibaragi Prefecture near Tokyo. The Deity came to Nara on a white deer back. So the deer are protected as the deity's messenge.
Many people greeted the deer with bowing for having carried the diety. Soon the deer bowed in return. Legend tell us that all Nara deer are descendants of that one white deer and many today continue to bow to visitors.
Sarusawa Pond (猿沢の池）
The pond of the Kofukuji Temple, the people in those days used to set free the fish that they bought from fishmongers, with a prayer that their deed of charity would assure a happy future for their departed relatives.
Kofukuji Temple (興福寺）
This temple is the headquarter of the Hosso Sect Buddhism. It was founded in 669 by Kagami -no-Okimi, the consort of Kamatari, the founder of Fujiwara family.
The five-storied pagoda is a symbol of the Deer park. This is 50.9m in height, last rebuilt in1426 after being damaged in a succession of civil wars.
Nara National Museum (奈良国立博物館）
The museum consists of two buildings, namely, The Main West Gallery and the new building East Gallery. Both are connected by an
underpass. The museum exhibits the history and techniques of Buddhist sculpture and excavated ancient Buddhist relics, such as the plan of temples, roof-tiles of each period.
It is the second oldest museum in Japan.
The Main West Galerry opened in 1895.
Todaiji Temple (東大寺）
This temple is the headquarters of the Kegon (Avatamsaka) sect of Buddhism. In 745 emperor Shomu (reigned 724 - 749) ordered to build the grand hall of Todaiji to enshrine the Great Buddha. It was completed in 752. You will be surprised when you see the Daibutsu (Great Buddha), the main object of worship of this hall, which is the biggest wooden structure in the world.
Nara Prefectural New Public Hall (奈良春日野国際フォーラム）
This Hall was constructed in 1987 in commemoration of the 100 the establishment of Nara Prefecture.
It is called Big Roof in 1987 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Nara Prefecture.
The Hall has an impressive Noh theatre, ehich can be converted into a multi-purpose auditorium, conference
rooms , reception hall and a spacious beautiful garden.
Closed : Monday (If Monday is a national holiday, then Tuesday)
From Dec 28th to Jan 4 th
Kasuga Taisha Shrine (春日大社）
The shrine was built by Fuhito Fujiwara (in 710), the son of Kamatari, the first generation leader of the powerful Fujiwara family. Approx 1000 these hanging lanterns and 2000 stone lanterns along the approach to this shrine are lit creating a solemn atomosphere
on the days of seasonal division in February and 14th and 15th of August.
Isuien Garden （依水園）
According to an old record of temples of Nara, the front yard was once a part of the Manishuin Gankoji Temple. In 1673 it fell into Kiyosumi's hand, who was an influential bleacher in Nara. He modified the layout of the garden, erecting a thatch-roofed house. At the opening ceremony the building was named "The Sanshu-Tei" by Mokuan Zenshi, a distinguished priest of the Obaku Sect of Buddhism.
Yoshikien Garden Foreign tourists will not have to pay the entrance fee
This is said the site of a residence of the high priests of Kofukuji Temple. The garden is consisted of 3 different types of gardens. "Pond Garden" "Moss Garden" and "Tea Ceremonial Flower Garden". There is Tea House in the moss garden. Adopting the natural ups, downs and curves of the ground. The "Pond garden" was designed Edo era (about 200 years ago) so as to become one with the building. The garden is carpeted with cider moss and is the quiet setting with a one-story wooden the house with thached roof. The tea ceremonial flower garden is full of flowers that said the stage fo tea ceremony. It is loved by people for its simple but pleasent atmosphere.
Okumura Commemorative Museum（奥村記念館）
The museum opened to commemorative the centenary of Okumura Corporation's founding in 2007. The building features an exterior disign that blends into the landscape of Nara Park while the inside is open to the public free of charge with a space for visitors to relax in and an exhibition area to introduce the 100 year company history.
Seismic Isolation System (Actual Object)
You can get a close look at the laminated rubber bearings and elastic slide bearings.
Earthquake & Seismic Isolation Experience Device
The same tremors in a seismically isolated building can be experienced.
This hexagonal hall is built on the Sagiike Pond in Nara Park.
Open every day. Admission is free.
2. Saki Area
Heijo-kyo Japan's first capital Heijo Palace Site
In 710, Empress-Regnant Gemmei (reigned 661 - 721) founded a permanent court and the seat of administration on the Nothern part of the Basin of Nara after the model of Changan Castle of Tang in China. She called it "Heijokyo". It continued to be the capital for 74 years, succeeding 7 reigns, until 784. After the capital was moved to Kyoto by Emperor Kammu (781 - 806) the site was left to ruin. Excavation of the site began in 1959. Many remains were found including the pillar holes , ditches, "Tsuji" walls, wells and so on.
The Main Hall of the Former Imperial Audience Hall had been reconstructed as a national project.
Ｔｈｅｓｅ ｔｗｏ ｔｅｍｐｌｅｓ ａｒｅ ｎｅａｒ Ｎｉｓｈｉ－ｎｏ－ｋｙｏ ｓｔａｔｉｏｎ ｏｆ ｋｉｎｔｅｔｓｕ ｒａｉｌｗａｙ．
Toshodaiji Temple （唐招提寺）
This temple was founded in 759 by the Chinese Priest Ganjin (688 - 763).
Yakushiji Temple (薬師寺）
The construction work of the original temple started at Asuka, the South part of Nara. In 680 at the wishes of Emperor Temmu (reigned 672 - 86) to pray for the recovery of the empress from illness, but the work was succeeded by empress Regnant Jito (reigned 686 - 97) the former empress and completed in the reign of emperor Mommu (697 - 707).
4. Ikaruga Area
Ｔｈｅｓｅ ｔｅｍｐｌｅｓ ａｒｅ ２０ ｍｉｎｕｔｅｓ ｗａｌｋ ｆｒｏｍ ＪＲ Ｈｏｒｙｕｊｉ Ｓｔａｔｉｏｎ
Horyuji Temple （法隆寺）
According to the inscription on the "halo of the Yakushi Nyorai" which is enshrined in the Kondo, the original temple was built in 607 by prince Shotoku (574 - 622) together with his aunt Empress-Regnant Suiko (reigned 592 - 628) in pursuance of the will of his father Emperor Yomei (reigned 583 - 587). However the temple has an record that it was burnt down in 670. It is estimated by the authoritative scholars that the present temple was reconstructed in its original form in the begining of 8th century. In any case, it is the oldest wooden structure existing on earth.
Chuguji Nunnery （中宮寺）
This nunnery is said to have been originated by Prince Shotoku to pray for the repose of Imperial Princess Hashihito, his mother. The original nunnery stood 500 m to the East of the present site until the Muromachi period and was called the "Ikaruganiji Nunnery". This nunnery belongs to the Shotoku sect of Buddhism.