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Another remarkable Buddhist architecture built by renowned Fujiwara Family in Nara is Kofuku Ji Temple. Like Todai Ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha, Kofuku Ji Temple was also a tutelary temple of the clan and one of the Seven Great Temples in Nara . The only difference is that it gained more influence and power, that even when the Todai-ji started to decline after the capital city being moved the Kofuku Ji Temple stay unaffected. Established in year 669, Kofuku Ji Temple had undergone numerous reconstructions though only several major buildings out of 175 structures are managed to survive. On the brighter side, they managed to restore Kofuku Ji Temple's two iconic pagodas. Visitors can admire both pagodas that have become one of Nara's famous landmark for centuries.
Blessed by Historical Beauty of Kofuku Ji Temple
Out of three “Golden Halls' that was originally built inside Kofuku Ji complex, The Eastern Golden Hall was the only one that was managed to be restored. The original building which was built at the eastern side of the Central Golden Hall was destroyed by fire five times, with the last restoration was done during Muromachi Period. The Golden Hall was erected under the instruction of Emperor Shomu as a prayer hall to pray for his beloved aunt (retired Female Emperor Gensho)'s speed recovery. The prayer hall was lined with soothing green tiles while on the main altar are figures of seated Yakushi Nyorai (the Master of Medicines) and two standing boddhisattvas, all of them were made of copper-alloy.The whole atmosphere in the hall was meant to represent Yakushi's realm. The hall also house other National Treasures, such as wooden figures of Monju Bosatsu and Yuima Koji, Four Heavenly Kings (Shitennou), and the Twelve Divine Generals (Juunishinnou) guarding the Yakushi Buddha.
Arguably the most popular structure in Kofuku Ji Temple is its five storied pagoda located right next to the Eastern Golden Hall. Standing in 50.1 meters tall, this pagoda is the second tallest wooden pagoda in Japan after Toji Temple's pagoda in Kyoto. The original pagoda was built in Year 730 by Empress Komyo, and it had been burned five times before its final restoration in 1426. The pagoda's deep eaves roof are indeed impressive, but wait until you explored inside. There are stunning mini versions of the pagoda made of rock crystal and sacred scripts enshrined in each pagoda's floor. The first floor contained “Four Buddhas of Four Directions” accompanied with their respective boddhisattvas. The arrangement is supposed to represent the Mahayana Buddhist concept of time and space. The progression of time is represented in North-South Axis by the South Buddha Shaka (Buddha of the Past) and Miroku in the North (Buddha of the Future). Meanwhile the East-West axis represent space with Amida (Buddha of the Western Realm of Ultimate Bliss) facing West and Yakushi Buddha that rules over the Eastern Pure Beryl Radiance Realm watching over the East. The entire building symbolizing the continuing existence of Buddha's teaching in the world.
The second Pagoda in Kofuku Ji Temple complex is seven meters shorter from the five-storied one. The three storied pagoda was built in the early 12th Century by the consort of Emperor Sutoku Fujiwara no Kiyoko. The original building was completely destroyed along with the rest of the temple complex due to the great fire in 1181, though it was reconstructed soon after. Like the previous taller one, the pagoda also house numerous Japan's National Treasure consist of religious murals painted on wooden panels. Each panels depict 1000 images of “The Four Buddhas of Four Directions”. The entire hall look mesmerizing with ornated patterns and paintings of Buddha, including some depictions of the patrons. The Benzaiten deity (Japanese' depiction of Sarasvati) is also enshrined on the eastern part of the central pillar. She was depicted with her 15 attendants surrounding her.
You can easily spot The Hitokoto Kannon Hall from its bright red painted wall. The prayer hall was originally one of Kofuku-Ji Temple's sub-temple before it was moved to its current location during Meiji Era. The hall enshrine the image of Hitokoto Kannon, a Kannon who respond to his devotee's sincere prayer even if it's just a single word. Hitokoto Kannon derive from the words “Hitokoto” which means single word in English and Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy.
The Fudo Hall was the only Meiji architecture in Kofuku Ji Temple complex. A statue of Fudo Myo'o the “Immovable King of Radiant Wisdom” or Acala was enshrined in the hall. In Shingon Buddhism, Fudo Myo'o is the highly reverred deity who, while he might look frightening, is actually burning away all defilements and help humans to reach enlightments. On 1st, 15th, and 28th every month a fire offering ceremony called “Goma Kuyo” is performed in the hall. The ceremony is quite bizzare as you'll see the worshippers will walk through the hot embers and coals, the ritual is called Hiwatari. Its purpose is to burn away all the defilements and misfortunes.
The last attraction spot you should absolutely visit is the Kokuhokan or Kofuku Ji National Treasure Museum. This museum is the best place to enjoy large collection of Japanese sculptures and paintings. The most popular artifacts in this national museum are a sculpture of three-faced, six-armed Ashura deity and head statue of the Healing Buddha Yakushi Nyorai.
How to Get Tickets?
You don't have to pay admission fee to enter Kofuku Ji temple's ground and most of the buildings. However, you do have to pay for separated admission fee to enter the Eastern Golden Hall and Kofuku Ji National Treasure Museum. To enter Eastern Golden Hall, you will have to pay JPY 500 or $4.45, and JPY 600 ($ 5.34) to access Kofuku Ji National Treasure Museum. You'll get to save one hundred yen if you purchase the Combined Ticket to both attractions.
How To Get Around?
Kofuku Ji Temple isn't that extensive, you can explore all attractions inside by walking.
What Should I Wear?
Like many other temples in Japan, Kofuku Ji Temple is a highly reverred site so it is best to wear modest clothes. Choose clothes that don't reveal too much skin and you're good to go!
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Kofuku Ji Temple is in Fall season when the weather will be much cooler than Summer but still warmer than Winter. You can also see the breathtaking view of the Temple's courtyard as the tree leaves starting to change color (momiji).
Will I Need a Guide?
No, all informations you need can be easily found in this website.
How To Get There?
Kofuku Ji Temple is only five minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, though you might have to take much longer time if you go from JR Nara Station. If you don't feel like walking, you can catch a yellow Loop Bus that goes clockwise or any buses with destination to Kasuga Taisha. It will takes about 5 to 7 minutes. Stop at Kencho-mae bus stop and the temple is just few steps away.