Nara was an ancient capital in Japan in the 8th century. The capital lasted for 84 years before Kyoto became capital in 794 AD. This glorious capital was described by an ancient poet, like " a fragrant flower in full bloom." Nara was the cradle of the great Japanese arts
and the essence of culture in the long-ago Tempyo Period.
The old, world-famous temples and shrines of the province of Yamato (presently Nara Prefecture) have handed down to us their precious history. Among those are the cathedrals of Todaiji, Kofukuji, Yakushiji, Toshodaiji
and the Kasuga Grand Shrine,
which are settings where one can encounter the rich, elegant Tempyo Culture
. As you go through the corridors, and glance at the tiled roofs of these cathedrals, the Tempyo Culture will make you forget all about time and space, and will whisper to you about the old days of well over a thousand years as if they were yesterday.
The Buddha in Nara
Nara is also a treasure-place of the Japanese arts. Since the introduction of Buddhism, the Buddhist Images played particularly important roles in creating special "Plastic Arts" in the artistic fields of Buddhism. The formative (plastic) beauty of our country has been created from the change from the youthful appearance of the Hakuho Period through the gorgeousness and maturity of the Tempyo Period, the delicacy and grace of the Fujiwara Period, and finally to the vigorousness and animation of the Kamakura. Some of the representative sculptures are statue of Ashura enshrined in the Kofukuji Temple, a masterpiece of the Tempyo Period; Eleven-Headed Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy) enshrined at Hokkeji Temple, a product of the Jyogan Period, during which the craftsmanship of wooden carving was popular. Many other famous Buddhist Images are still exist(extant) in the ancient city of Nara.
As one stares at the face of the Buddha, one gets the feeling that the statue will begin talking at any moment. It is probably true that the passion with which many people make wishes to the Buddha, are in the mind of the Buddha.
Significant Traditional Events in the Ancient City of NARA
As Nara is known as the home of Japanese history and culture, it is not surprising that its traditional events, which are carried out throughout the year, are indeed colorful.
Some of them are,
1. Ceremonial Burning of Wakakusa-yama Hill whose flames illuminate an evening sky in winter
2. Water-Drawing Ceremony of Nigatsudo (February Hall) and Cherry blossom viewing in spring
3. Firelight Noh (the perfection of that art, performed with an open-air fire for a background) in summer
4. Kasuga Grand Shrine Lantern Lighting Ritual
(in which about 3,000 stone and hanging bronze lanterns are all lit at once, forming a simple yet elegant atmosphere) in summer
5. The Deer horn Cutting Ceremony in autumn
It is no exaggeration to state that the four seasons are beautifully colored by the numerous traditional events that add a sweet innocence to the charm of Nara.
Arts and Crafts of Nara
Nara is the birthplace of the culture of Japan. Many traditional arts and crafts suited to the natural features and life style of Nara have been handed down to the present day. The techniques of the ancient artists who created the masterpieces designated as Important Cultural Properties have been preserved in this district. These refined techniques can be seen in the splendid works preserved in the Shoso-in (the depository for the treasures of Todaiji Temple) and various temples, shrines and museums. These works are not only magnificent, but also have a feeling of dignity and grace. The artists have given us works containing the essence of Nara, its culture, and its history. Traversing times the spirit of the artisan still exists.
This description is quoted from this site
From 2001 to 2009 the main hall was renovated. I saw this process through a documentary on a TV program. At first, the parts of the hall were disassembled. Next, they checked the parts and some were replaced with new ones. Finally, after that they reassembled the hall. In surprise, no nail was used in the old building and even Buddhist sculptures( refer to the website
). Another surprising thing is some decayed parts are replaced by combining with new woods by special mosaic techniques using traditional tools. Surface of the pillars appear ripples pattern by the traditional plane and this ripples add something deep and beautiful atmosphere on the pillars. The renovation took totally 8 years.