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Horyu Ji Temple might be unheard of, especially if it compared to other Nara's temple attractions such as Todai Ji and Kofuku Ji. Which is unfortunate because the ancient temple deserves more attention as it was one of the most historically significant building in Nara and also the oldest wooden structure in Japan that have stood for over 1300 years (and still in its prime). For example, the main hall of Horyu Ji Temple and also its five-storey pagoda soaring right next to it were estimated to be built around 600 AD, while the rest buildings inside the temple's ground were built around 800 AD. Horyi Ji Temple received a recognition from UNESCO as a one of World Heritage Site. While Horyu Ji Temple doesn't offer striking view of cherry blossom and momiji from hilltop, it certainly gives so much more.
The Unsung Legend : Horyu Ji Temple
The first thing you'll notice right away the moment you reached the main hall of Horyu Ji Temple is its five-storied pagodas. Visitors can admire its iconic roof structures and sculptures depicting life of Buddha carved on four sides of the pagoda. Some people believe that a fragment of Buddha's bones are kept inside the pagoda's base. Walking inside the pagoda, you'll see numerous precious clay statues originated from Nara Period.
Right next to the pagoda is the Main Hall or kondō. The two-storey hall was one of the oldest building in the complex. The Shaka Triad and bronze statue of Yakushi Buddha along with Amida Nyorai statues to honor the Prince's beloved mother are enshrined in the hall. Visitors can also enjoy the beautiful frescoes painted on the wall. The Hall was severely damaged to fire in 1949, though fortunately it has been restored to its original beauty.
Hall of Dreams or Yumedono will immediately catch your attention, thanks to its unique and impressive structure. The building was erected in Year 739 on the ground where Princes Shotoku's private palace Ikaruga no miya used to stand. Hall of Dreams were built in order to appease the Prince's spirit. Some of you might wonder why do they named it “Hall of Dreams”? The answer lied in the legend that have been passed around, that said a Buddha was once came and meditated in the hall by taking form as Prince Shotoku. The Hall of Dreams only contain one statue of Yumedono Kannon, though unfortunately it can only be viewed at certain times of the year.
Though it's not possible to see Yumedono Kannon at any time in Hall of Dreams, at least you can see its closest sculpture: Kuudara Kannon. The Kudara Kannon is one of hundreds National Treasure collection that are being kept in Horyu Ji Temple. Many experts assume that Kudara Kannon was a sculpture made in the 7th Century during Asuka Period. It has a slim figure and you can only see the best view of it from the side. Its main characteristics will remind you a lot with the characteristics of Shaka Triad although it is hard to make sure since most part of the statue is severely damaged. While the origin is still uncertain, most likely the statue was originated from Japan as it was made of Cinammomum camphora wood and the flower ornaments on its head that strongly resemble Guze Kannon and The Four Devas inside the Main Hall.
Although most part of murals in the Main Hall are destroyed by fire, few survived and one of them is this Amidhaba Murals. The Amidhaba murals are painted on the large walls, supposedly representing the realm of four Buddhas: Shaka, Amida, Miroku, and Yakushi Nyorai. There are striking resemblance in the paintings with murals found in Ajanta Caves in India and Dunhuang in China. The original murals however are removed from The Main Hall and stored in a treasure house that is not accessible to public. Some smaller paintings are original paintings that survived the fire while the rest are reproductions as the original ones are completely destroyed.
The most popular treasure in Horyu Ji Temple is a Shaka Triad Buddha sculptures sculpted by renowned sculptor Tori Busshi. The Siddharta Buddha statue was placed on the center and guarded by Bhaisajyaguru the Medicine Buddha on his right and Amitabha Budha on his left. You can find Tori's signature style in the statues, like their two-dimensionality and repetitive patterns of the cloth the triad are sitting on. The Triad are guarded by wooden sculptures of Four Heavenly Kings (Shitennou).
How to Get Tickets?
To access Horyu Ji Temple, you will have to pay JPY 1000 or $8.92.
How To Get Around?
There are a lot of buildings inside Horyu Ji Temple ground, though the only possible thing to go around and visit them all is by walking on foot. Be sure to wear your most comfortable waking shoes!
What Should I Wear?
Despite its former status as a religious site, Horyu Ji Temple is considered as a tourist attraction in modern days. That's being said there's no exact rules on how you should dress, so just wear any clothes that feel comfortable to you. The most important thing is to wear a pair of comfortable shoes as you will walk a lot.
Best Time to Visit
Horyu Ji Temple is best visited during Fall Season. The weather will be much more pleasant, plus you will get to enjoy momiji when you are getting around the temple complex.
Will I Need a Guide?
No, all informations you need to know about Horyu Ji Temple can be found in this website.
How To Get There?
The easiest way to get to Horyu Ji Temple is by train. Take the Yamatoji Line to Horyuji Station, that will takes about 12 minutes. The temple is just few minutes of walk from the station. You can also take the bus number 97 from the JR Nara Station and stop at the Horyujimon-mae bus stop.