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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

History

Todaiji Temple 東大寺

Kegon Buddhism's head temple, where a massive Buddha hides treasure in his leg

Todai-ji is not only one of the most important temples in Nara, but in the whole of Japanese Buddhism. As well as being home to the biggest bronze Buddha in the world, it also serves as the headquarters of an entire school of Buddhism known as Kegon.

Don't Miss

  • The Great Buddha
  • The hall housing the Great Buddha is a sight in itself
  • The muscular guardians at the gate
  • Squeeze through the hole in the pillar

How to Get There

Todai-ji is accessible from JR Nara Station, but is much closer to Kintetsu Nara Station.

From there, it is a walk of around 15 minutes.

Alternatively visitors can take the bus from either JR Nara or Kintetsu Nara stations to the Daibutsuden-Kasuga-taisha-mae bus stop.

Creeping past the guards

The gateway leading into the temple is famous for its guardians. Representing the Nio Guardian Kings, these muscle-bound figures are terrifying, standing over eight meters tall and heavily muscled. These famous 13th century statues protect the Buddha in the Main Temple. While their stance may suggest aggression, their body position is supposed to suggest movement and even dancing. Despite this love of dance, they are known for defeating demons — proof that dancers should never be underestimated.

Amazingly, it took ten massive cyprus trees to make these powerful entities, so they literally are a strong as a tree — ten of them.

The biggest Buddha

The temple's main attraction is its bronze Buddha, the largest bronze Buddha in the world. The peaceful face of the Buddha looks serenely down at you from 15 meters up; the face itself is over five meters tall. At an estimated 500 tons, the original construction was an incredible feat given that it was completed in the eighth century.

While most of the statue is metal, using x-rays it was discovered that a human tooth — likely from Emperor Shomu — is encased inside. Alongside this unusual finding was a treasure trove hidden inside the leg of the Buddha, including pearls, mirrors, swords and jewels.

Because the Buddha takes most of your attention, it is easy to overlook some of the other attractions in the main hall. Near to the giant statue, there is a large pillar with a hole that people can crawl through. By squeezing yourself through the hole, it is believed you can humble yourself enough to gain enlightenment in your next life.

The main hall itself is the world's largest wooden building. This is even more impressive, since this current 1692 reconstruction is 30% smaller than the original.

While at Todaiji, do not miss the chance to walk up the hill and visit the less-visited Sangetudo (Hokkedo). There is also the Todaiji Culture Center to see more of the temple's treasures.

The area around Todai-ji

While the Buddha is one of Nara's most important sights, don't miss the neighboring Nark Park where the deer congregate. This is a great chance to interact with these unusually tame speckled beauties.

Nearby Todai-ji is a museum holding more Buddhist art and helps you gain an understanding of the vast religious history of the area.

Set aside an hour to view Todai-ji, the Great Buddha, and the guardians at leisure.

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