Statue guarding the temple of Tōdai-ji, Nara, Japan
Statue guarding the temple of Tōdai-ji, Nara, Japan


  • LOCATION Nara lies 22 miles (35 km) south of Kyoto and 19 miles (30 km) east of Osaka, in Japan’s Kansai region
  • 7th–8th centuries
  • Jan: 38°F (3°C); Apr: 56°F (13°C); Jul: 78°F (25°C); Oct: 61°F (16°C)

The capital of Japan from AD 710 to 794, when it was succeeded by Kyoto, the small city of Nara is located at the very center of the country and is regarded as the birthplace of Japanese culture.

It was during Nara’s era of prosperity in the 7th and 8th centuries that Buddhism became firmly established in Japan, prompting the construction of a number of superb temples that survive to this day. Preeminent among these shrines is Tōdai-ji, with its spectacular, revered 49-ft- (15-m-) high bronze Buddha statue, and Hōryū-ji, which is the country’s oldest Buddhist temple. Hōryū-ji also boasts a fascinating collection of religious statues and ancient artifacts, as well as the world’s oldest surviving wooden building.

Practical Information

Getting There Fly into the international airport at either Kyoto or Osaka, from which points you can take a train, car or bus to Nara.

When to Go Visit during the pleasantly temperate spring and fall months (Mar–May and Sep–Oct), in order to avoid the tropical heat of summer and the freezing temperatures of winter.

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