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Todai Ji Temple is one of the oldest and also historically significant temple in Nara. It is not only crowned as one of Nara's Seven Great Temple, UNESCO also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara”. Up until today Todai Ji Temple has become Nara's most recognized landmark. The background of Todai Ji Temple's establishment is rather surprising. Unlike most Buddhist temples that were built to worship the Gods, Todai Ji Temple was built by Emperor Shomu for his deceased first son Prince Motoi that died just a year after his birth. The temple became a provincial temple of Yamato Province during Tenpyou Era before Emperor Shomu moved the capital away from Nara four times due to political and economy instability. Briefly forgotten, Todai Ji has risen up once again to be the most popular attraction in Nara visited by tourists every year.
6 Best Things to See in Sacred Todai Ji Temple
One main attraction you should absolutely visit in Todai Ji Complex is Daibutsuden, or The Great Buddha Hall. The spacious hall was once the largest wooden structure in Nara, at least until modern buildings started to emerge. It housed a 15 meter high Buddha statue or Daibutsu made of bronze. In the same hall is a unique pillar with a hole on its base. Legend has it that the hole was as big as the Daibutsu's nostril and those who managed to squeeze themselves through the hole will receive enlightment in their next life. Several smaller sizes of Daibutsu statues are also placed in the hall. Statue of Bishamonten and Komokoten are also placed in the hall to guard the giant Buddha statue
The moment you entered Todai Ji Temple, you will be welcomed with one of Japan's National Treasure in the area: Nandaimon. Nandaimon or Great South Gate is a large wooden gate that served as an entrance gate to the main temple. To enter through the gate, you will be under the watchful eyes of two A-Un dragon statues guarding both sides of the gate. Quite unfortunately, the Nandaimon you'll see is not the original gate as the original one was destroyed by a typhoon during Heian Period. The gate was later reconstructed at the end of 12th Century under influence of Daibutsuyou architecture style.
Todaiji Museum was the newest modern architecture built within Todai Ji Temple complex. It is located right next to the Nandaimon Gate, you'll easily spot it on your way to Daibutsuden. The museum boast 60 historical and cultural treasures and Buddhism arts. One of the most popular collection in the Todaiji Museum are boddhisattva statues of Fuku Kenjaku Kannon. Rotating exhibitions are held in the museum every so often displaying different sets of Buddhist relics.
Take a short walk to the East side of Daibutsuden and you'll reach Nigatsudo Hall. The wooden structure was established by Sanetada, a Buddhist monk in 752 and the construction was complete around 752. During the civil war in 1180 and 1567, the main hall managed to survive though some parts of the Hall was destroyed on fire and rebuilt two years later. The main Nigatsudo Hall is a home to two sacred Kannon statues, though unfortunately visitors aren't allowed to see them as they are considered as Hibutsu or Sacred Buddhas. They are however, are allowed to climb up to the balcony located on the second floor and takes in marvellous view of Todai-ji and lush greens surrounding the area. If you come at the right time, you'll get to witness Omizutori Ceremony held annually at Nigatsudo Hall.
Located right next to Nigatsudo Hall is Sangatsudo Hall, or more famously called Hokkedo Hall. This ancient hall was the oldest structure in Todai-ji Temple and established around 740 to 747. Hokkeido Hall was also historically significant, because the first lectures on Avatam saka Sutra took place in the hall. The hall is divided into two parts, the Worship Hall and the Image Hall. Inside the worshipping hall you'll see an astounding image of Fukukensaku Kannon, deity of salvation. Nearby the Kannon image are statues of Kongo Rikishi and the Four Divine Kings guarding the Fukukensaku Kanon and the realm of Buddha . The hall also house Shukongo-jin, a sacred statue that's only revealed for public every 16th December.
After it destroyed for three times in different periods since year 754, the Kaidan Temple was finally rebuilt in Edo Period. During its reconstruction new structures are being added, they are Senju-do, the Jukai-do, and living quarters for priests called Kuri. Like other temples in Todai Ji, the Kaidan-In Temple house numerous statues of Shintoism Gods. Visitors can find the clay figures of the Four Heavenly Kings (Shitennou) guarding the images of Buddha. There's also a figure of seated Buddha statue called Rushana Buddha from Heian Period.
How to Get Tickets?
To gain access to Todai-Ji Temple, you will have to pay JPY 600 or about $5.34 for admission fee. Additional admission fees will be applied if you want to enter other temples and Daibutsuden. You can choose to pay JPY 1000 or $8.91 that will grants you access to both Todaiji Museum and Daibutsuden. The admission fee to enter Hokkedo Hall are JPY 500 ($4.45) for adults and JPY 300 ($ 2.67) for children. To see the Shitennou in Kaidain Temple, you'll have to pay JPY 600 for entry ticket. The Nigatsudo Hall and Nandaimon however, are free of charge.
How To Get Around?
The attractions inside Todaiji Temple can be reached on foot. Though if you'd prefer to visit only one or two of them, you can take the yellow Loop Line Bus or a taxi instead.
What Should I Wear?
While it might not be addressed anywhere, it is best to keep it simple by wearing modest clothes. That means no tank top or hot pants. Opt for a casual T-Shirt or long blouse as a top and long pants or skirt for the bottom. Don't forget to wear a pair of comfortable shoes.
Best Time to Visit
Todai Ji is ideal to be visited at any time of the year. However, it is highly recommended to visit the temple in June. The weather will be cooler than Summer but still warmer than Winter. You will also get to see the magnificent view as the trees start to change color to bright red and warm orange.
Will I Need a Guide?
No, the transportation to Todai Ji Temple is very easy and all informations you need can be found in this website.
How To Get There?
You can easily reach Todai Ji Temple from Nara Park by walking straight to the North. It also only take few minutes from Kintetsu Nara Station or Jr Nara Station. If you don't feel like walking for 30-45 minutes, you can always take a yellow Line Loop Bus or taxi that will cut time to 10 minutes.