Kofukuji Temple, situated in the center of Nara, in Nara Park, is one of the city's most beautiful and historic temples and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Founded in 669 by the Fujiwara family, the temple was moved from Yamashina in Kyoto to its present location in 710, when Nara became the new capital of the Yamato state. Along with Horyuji and Todaiji, Kofukuji Temple is important is the establishment and acceptance of Buddhism in Japan at this time. However, none of the buildings date from the Nara Period (710-794), with most of the structures having been built between the 12th-18th centuries.
Kofukuji is noted for its fine 50m-tall Five-Story Pagoda, a Three-Story Pagoda and the Tokon-do and Kokuhokan, which house beautiful collections of priceless, Buddhist art and statuary.
The rather drab, concrete Kokuhokan (Admission, 500 yen) contains arguably the best collection of Japanese sculpture in the world. A set of guardians, including a standing dry-lacquer figure of Ashura (one of the Buddha's eight protectors) and the bronze head of Yakushi Nyorai (the Healing Buddha) are standouts. The Tokondo (Admission, 300 yen) has more Buddhist statues including a large image of Yakushi Nyorai and a beautiful seated image of Yuima Koji (the Indian Buddhist sage Vimalakirti).
The Five-Story Pagoda, which was completely restored in 1427, is the second tallest pagoda in Japan, behind the 55m-tall pagoda at Toji Temple in Kyoto. The Three-Story Pagoda dates from the early 12th century and houses some Buddhist paintings.
The Kofukuji temple complex has two octagonal buildings containing yet more ancient Buddhist treasures: the Hokuendo (Northern Octagonal Hall) and the Nanendo (Southern Octagonal Hall). Both have resticted opening hours to the public.
Kofukuji is a short walk from Kintetsu Nara Station at the entrance to Nara Koen (Nara Park). Admission to the temple grounds is free, the Kokuhokan museum is 500 yen for adults. Opening hours are 9am-5pm daily.
Tel: 0742 22 7755
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Monday, January 26, 2009