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NARA Walking Tour [Customize Your Itinerary]

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Stop At: Todai-ji Temple, 406-1 Zoshicho, Nara 630-8211 Nara Prefecture

Todaiji (Tōdaiji, "Great Eastern Temple") is one of Japan's most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. The temple was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan and grew so powerful that the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in order to lower the temple's influence on government affairs.
Todaiji's main hall, the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the world's largest wooden building, despite the fact that the present reconstruction of 1692 is only two thirds of the original temple hall's size. The massive building houses one of Japan's largest bronze statues of Buddha (Daibutsu). The 15 meters tall, seated Buddha represents Vairocana and is flanked by two Bodhisattvas.

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Nara Park, 469 Zoshicho, Nara 630-8211 Nara Prefecture

Nara Park (Nara Kōen) is a large park in central Nara. Established in 1880, it is the location of many of Nara's main attractions including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and the Nara National Museum. It is also home to hundreds of freely roaming deer.
Considered the messengers of the gods, Nara's over 1000 deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a natural treasure. Deer crackers are for sale around the park, and some deer have learned to bow to visitors to ask to be fed. Nara's deer are surprisingly tame, although they can be aggressive if they think you will feed them, so make sure not to tease them with food.

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Heijo Palace Museum, 2-9-1 Sakicho, Nara 630-8577 Nara Prefecture

During most of the Nara Period (710-794), Nara served as the capital of Japan and was known as Heijo-kyo. The Heijo Palace extended about one kilometer wide and one kilometer long and served as the site of the emperor's residence and government offices. For its great historical and cultural importance, the palace site is included as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Nara.
Although the palace once stood as the majestic center of the ancient capital, all of its original buildings were eventually lost, with the exception of a single hall that was moved in the 8th century and now stands at Toshodaiji Temple. When the capital was moved away from Heijo-kyo in 784, Heijo Palace and a large part of the city were abandoned as officials and other citizens flocked to the new capital. The temples on the outskirts of the former capital, however, retained their importance, and the city of Nara eventually resumed its growth around these temples, while the palace grounds were used for nothing but rice fields.

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Horyu-ji Temple, 1-1 Horyuji Sannai, Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma-gun 636-0115 Nara Prefecture

Horyuji Temple (Hōryūji) was founded in 607 by Prince Shotoku, who is credited with the early promotion of Buddhism in Japan. Horyuji is one of the country's oldest temples and contains the world's oldest surviving wooden structures. It was designated a world heritage site in 1993. Horyuji's temple grounds are spacious and separated into two main precincts, the Western Precinct (Saiin Garan) and the Eastern Precinct (Toin Garan).

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Kasuga Taisha Museum, 160 Kasuganocho, Nara 630-8212 Nara Prefecture

Kasuga Taisha is Nara's most celebrated shrine. It was established at the same time as the capital and is dedicated to the deity responsible for the protection of the city. Kasuga Taisha was also the tutelary shrine of the Fujiwara, Japan's most powerful family clan during most of the Nara and Heian Periods. Like the Ise Shrines, Kasuga Taisha had been periodically rebuilt every 20 years for many centuries. In the case of Kasuga Taisha, however, the custom was discontinued at the end of the Edo Period.
Beyond the shrine's offering hall, which can be visited free of charge, there is a paid inner area which provides a closer view of the shrine's inner buildings. Furthest in is the main sanctuary, containing multiple shrine buildings that display the distinctive Kasuga style of shrine architecture, characterized by a sloping roof extending over the front of the building.

Duration: 30 minutes
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