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IntroductionHere, for art-lovers, I introduce some interesting sites in Nara-city in Japan and its outskirts. Some are relatively unknown. This Nara-area has many famous ancient temples, important museums, medieval city scenes, a large park, ancient ruins, and gardens. I select here sites which I was really impressed in 1998-2000.
1. Dai-jo-IN Garden.
This 13,000 square meters area is a temple garden, first established in the late Heian period (11-12th century), and improved in the late 15th century by ZEN-A-MI, the best gardener at that time.
In 1871-1878, the racist precussion destroyed the noble construction of these temples. It has become ruined after Meiji era, but recently, NATIONAL-TRUST JAPAN got it, and is repairing it. Its repair will be completed in 2003. Now, we can appereciate the garden in "Garden-CULTURE-Center". This is a very comfortable and free center. It has two traditional japanese room in which sightseers rest and appreciate the splendid garden. As you see this picture, regrettfully it is in reconstructing. It will be completed until 2002. However, this scenery is attracive even now.
I visited thrice this 12th century flavoured garden, and always impressed by it.
OPEN 09:00-17:00, Monday closed, 12/26-1/5 closed.
2. Ho-ryu-ji museum
This ancient-looking museum was built in 1998. When the famous "Kudara Kannon"(colored wooden Avalokitisvara statue, 7th century) travelled to Paris, the goverment set the budget to build the new museum. The old temple museum was too dim and small to appreciate many treasures. I celebrated the renewal to many artifacts are under better lighting and glass case become better.
Among many temple museums in Japan, the eldest artifacts inherited hand by hand are in this. About third of the Japanese artifacts before the 7th century are in this monastery.
In the first gallery, many 7-8th century wooden sculptures will surprise connoisseurs. Amazingly, the 7th century large laquer-wooden shrine(maybe the oldest in Japan) stands the center-back of the gallery. This TAMAMUSHI-ZUSI has several original large laquer paintings and many gilt bromze ornaments.
In the center hall, the Avalokiti wood (coloured and lacquered) image stands and attracts many visitors. A replica of this image was sent to British Museum for British Request in 1920s.
In the second gallery, a large wooden shrine stands. Many scholars think it late 7th-early 8th century. Some paintings survived on it. In the shrine, there is a Amidhaba buddha and attendants triad, whose backscreen is a tour de force work of ancient Japanese metalworks.
I wrote only some most amazing artifacts, so off many. I recommend to save at least 1 hour to appreciate this museum.
In Horyu-ji monastery, Ikaruga, Nara, japan.
3. Hokki-ji tower
North-east 5km from the famous Horyu-ji monastery, this very small temple is among vegetable and flower farms. This very beautiful wooden tower was built in 706AD, and stands at 24m. Through centuries, it was repaired, but it has almost original features in 706 AD. This temple has only this tower as ancient architectures, but it is enough attractive to visit. The environment is very comfortable. The temple officers had hospitality.In Hokki-ji temple, Ikaruga, Nara, japan.
4. Deer park
A large "Nara park" at the center of Nara-city. Originally, that was a buddhist temple area of Ko-fuku-ji, but after 1891, the local govorment got the estate and built the park. In 1891, the goverment left racists to destroy buddhist temples. After 15th century, Nara-city was a sightseeing city. Hence, citizens protected the load order of destruction and support the project for sightseeing income.
There are many deers feed by public. Old women sale deer-crackers in the park. I recommend you to buy and feed deers. Amazingly, deers don't steal crackers from womens, but they surround you, when you buy them.
Originally, Deer was regarded the symbol of deity of Kasuga-Shrine, and goverment fed and secured in Edo Period(1604-1868). In 16th century, "Deers in Nara" was listed in 8 famous scenaries of Nara. In a painting in 12th century, deers are signs to show ones should be near Nara-city.
This large park offer queit and comfortable time for shightseers and citizens. Peoples in Osaka and Kyoto sometimes visit this park in weekend.
This pavillon was built in the large pond in southen part of Nara-Park. Parhaps, it may copy a buddhist pavillon in BIWA-lake in Siga perfecture. It hasn't any buddhist character, visiters can rest in this beutiful pavillon. Here is very comfortable space, but too pigeons live on the roof and dirt the pavillon. I hope the manager to eliminate the pigeons.
By the way, by the entrance road, an attaractive spot "SUI-KIN-KUTU"(the RIGHT) is. IT is a sort of musical instrument. Pouring water on the rock construction, one can listen beutiful natural mystic music from the underground. Some construction was built in underground, so that water drips sound in undergroud space like xylophone/ many puter bells. The sound is loud than expected, so that one need not take effort to hear.
In south part of Nara-Park, Nara-city, Nara, Japan
6. Guardian beast stone sculptures in Chinese Style
There are two large stone beasts in the SOUTH GATE of Todaiji which is famous for the biggest bronze buddha in Japan. All beginner sighseers should pass this gate.
In 13th century, when this gate was built, Chinese sculptures made these beasts. Many Chinese craftmen went to Japan, and worked in this temple in the 13th century. Many scholars think sculptures of "I" family from Nin-Po made them. "I" family became Japanese and flourished during the 13th century. Many stone reliefs are made in 13th century, in Nara. Several may be made by "I" family, and others were probably stimulated by them. The style is Chinese Song dynaty sculptures. Rigorous and sharp characters impress me. The base has some figure reliefs, which especially reflect Chinese taste.
These beasts are in the backward of the gate and fenced, moreover the
corner is dim. Although over ten thousands pass this gate by year, most
sightseers overlook them.
7. 12th century style garden in Nara Outskirt.
15km east from the center of Nara-city, in the narow valley, an old temple has this beautiful garden. This EN-JYO-JI temple was built in the 12th century and then the garden should be built. Most architectures are re-built in medieval period(15-17th century). A national treasure buddha statue by the famous sculptor "UN-KEI" (13th century, KAMAKURA-period) is in this main hall. Two small shrine in this area are the oldest shrine constructions among such small style shrines(KASUGA-STYLE shrines).
I feel this garden should be more attractive. Comparing The DAI-JYO-IN garden, this is small and feels a miniature, but I cannot leave this garden for one hour. Refined scenaries and rock constructions, and a small island compose a good taste, although topographical problem restricts this garden. I heard that this garden was recently repaired/reconstructed, but this scenery lead me to 12th century world.
In YAGYU, Nara. 20min by AUTOBUS( this bus usually start at NARA Station, ONLY 4 TIMES by DAY). If you like walking, you should select your shoes for mountain roads.
8. Rock buddhist images in Valley.
Taki SAKA Road, EAST of Nara-city, in Valleys. Please prepare to hike.
9. I-SU-I-EN garden and Nei-RAKU museum
Near the To-dai-ji(I wrote in 6.), you can visit a beutiful garden with a small fine museum. That is I sui-EN. A marchant in 1xxx, made a part of the garden and Junsaku Nakamura( a businessman) bought and expanded the garden and built a small museum for his great collection. His collection of Chinese ancient bronze seals is one of representive collections in Japan. Korean celadons, chinese and japanese ceramics are fine. chinese rubbing made in Sung--Ching dynaaties are,too. In the wide and well maintained garden, sometimes tea ceremony party are done, the traditional costume ladies often pass the garden paths.
Near DAIBUTU-DEN, center of NARA-city.
In Japan some areas consciously conserve the traditional scenary for sightseers and on its culutural values. That is a sort of OPEN-MUSEUM. M. XX wrote a in Orieantaions,nnnnnnn I note this NARA-machi in Nara-city. Many inhabitannts connserve the scenary and enhanced the movement. This photo is a common scene. Really a SOBA noodel restaurant front. The cloth balls hangings are amulets for fortune.