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Nara City: A Walk In The Park
Every journey has a starting point. For this journey, the starting point is Kintensu Nara station. Wear comfortable shoes because this walk in the park can last 5 hours. The length of your stay will depend upon how many temples you want to visit in nearby Nara-koen park. Begin by turning onto Nobori-oji Street and walking towards the park.
Kintensu Nara Station can be reached in a 12-minute walk from Nara Station.
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Kofuku-ji Temple (48 Noborioji-cho, Nara-shi)
This World Heritage Site was founded in the seventh century. It was the country’s first Buddhist temple. Although this five-story pagoda has been destroyed by fire five times, the roof tiles are from the 6th century. The building, however, dates from around 1426. Stop in the Kukuhokan (temple museum) to view some of the temples treasures.
Upon leaving here, you might want to grab a snack to take with you on the rest of your trip. If so, you can find tea and something light at Yoshinohonkuzu Tengyokudo Narahonten (1-6 Oshiage-cho, Nara-shi). It is just at the edge of the park near the Isu-en and Yoshikien Garden.
There are two gardens in this part of the park. They are:
· Yoshikien Garden (60 – 1, Noborioji–cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture): This garden was named after the little river that runs beside it – the Yoshikigawa River. It is on the site of what were once the residences of the priests of the Kofukuji temple. Within the garden you will find three different types of gardens:
o Pond garden
o Moss garden
o Tea ceremony garden
· Isuien Garden (74 Suimoncho, Nara, Nara Prefecture): Located beside Yoshikien Garden, Isuien consists of two gardens. One on the west side is spacious natural area perfect for leisurely strolls. The second garden, on the east side and centered around a pond, utilizes the architectural features of another stop on your park trip - Todai-ji temple as a backdrop. No matter what the season, you will always find flowers in bloom among the fragrant, flowering trees.
Todai-ji Temple (1 Zōshi-chō, Nara, Nara Prefecture)
From the gardens you can take a short walk and visit to the Nara National Museum with its calligraphy and paintings representative of the various Buddhist schools. Or, you can take a few minutes to view the most famous Buddha statue in the park – Todai-ji temple. Popularly renowned as the “Great Buddha” (Daibutsu), this colossal Vairocana statue was cast in 742 and unveiled in 752. It presides in the Daibutsuden or eastern temple which has its own claim to fame; it is the largest wooden edifice in the world.
The temple has been destroyed by fire several times over its history. Today’s structures are smaller than the original complex and date only from 1709. The orientation hall contains four very well-known images constructed from clay. These are the guardians of the four directions.
Nigatsudo hall is part of Todai-ji temple. Rebuilt in 1669, after a fire resulting from a Shini-e ceremony, it is a quiet place for contemplation. If you do not have the energy, you might want to avoid visiting this treasured hall. You have to climb around 70 steps to reach it. The views are worth it. Afterwards, you can rest at the nearby tea house.
After taking a break for tea at the quaint, traditionally designed Mizutani-chaya (30 Kasugano-cho, Nara-shi), you can then press forward to the last shrine of your park outing – the Kasuga Taisha Shrine.
Kasuga Taisha Shrine (160 Kasugano-cho, Nara-shi)
Both the shrine and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest that lies behind this significant Shinto shrine are World Heritage Sites. You can marvel at both the work of man and that of nature. Take one of the two paths to the shrine, taking time to marvel at the myriad stone lanterns that line them. Look up at the bronze lanterns that dangle from every eave. The roof, made of cypress bark, matches its surroundings completely. The buildings blend in harmoniously with the primeval forest that surrounds them. The forest, where logging was ended forever in 841, remains intact – as primitive as it was all those many years ago. Relax here, or in the nearby gardens. Consider feeding the famous deer that wander freely throughout the park before you embark on the second and less peaceful part of your visit – a trip to Naramachi.
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