Todaiji in Nara is one of Japan's most famous and most-visited Buddhist temples.
The main hall - Daibutsuden - is considered to be the largest wooden building in the world, though this 1709 reconstruction is a third smaller than the original structure which was completed in 752.
The Daibutsuden contains the awe-inspiring Daibutsu (Great Buddha), a colossal bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana first cast in 746. Parts of the present statue were later recast during the Edo Period (1600-1868). The statue is 16.2m tall and consists of 437 tons of bronze, 130kg of gold, 75kg of mercury and 7 tons of vegetable wax.
The designer of the original Buddha was a Korean artist from the Paikche Kingdom, Kuninaka-no-Kimimaro. The building is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Todaiji is the headquarters of the Kegon sect of Japanese Buddhism and Vairocana Buddha is considered by followers of the sect to be the spiritual body of the historical Buddha - Gautama Buddha or Sakyamuni in Japanese terminology. After achieving enlightenment in what is now the small town of Bodh Gaya in Bihar, northern India, the Buddha sat for a week in deep meditation and it is this pose that is represented in the giant statue.
Just in front of the Daibutsu is a 4.5 meter tall, Nara Period, octagonal, bronze lantern which is classified as a "National Treasure".
The temple is approached through the large Naidaimon Gate (Great Southern Gate), first built in the Nara Period (710-784). The gates contain the fine wooden sculptures of two Deva (Nio) guardian kings carved in the 13th century and considered some of the most beautiful wooden statues ever produced.
The temple grounds are inhabited by deer, which are allowed to wander freely. Please be careful if offering them food!
Images © Perrin Lindelauf & JapanVisitor
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Todaiji is around 30-40 minutes walk from either JR Nara or Kintetsu Nara stations. There are also buses from both these stations. Nara is an easy day trip from either Osaka or Kyoto.
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