Tōdai-ji – 東大寺
This time we are going to introduce Nara Prefecture’s symbol, the Tōdai-ji temple!
What’s special about Tōdai-ji?
Since its foundation, the Tōdai-ji’s Big Buddha Hall, the Daibutsu-den, is the biggest wooden building in the world. Throughout the years, this hall has been victim of fires and other disasters: the building we can see today in a 1692 reconstruction, with the size of two thirds of the original one.
In the Daibutsu-den Rushana Buddha, here known as the Big Buddha of Nara, is mainly enshrined. The statue dedicated to this buddha is 15 meters high. Not far from it there are two statues of bodhisattvas (so are called the human beings who attained illumination but stayed on the earth to help others to reach it as well).
How to reach the Tōdai-ji
The Tōdai-ji is located in Nara prefecture’s Nara city: the first thing to do is going down there.
The temple is easily reachable from two stations. The closest one is Kintetsu Nara Station, on the Kintetsu Nara private line. The site is 20 minutes far walking from here.
From this station and from Nara JR Station you can take a city bus loop line and get off at “Daibutsu-den Kasugataisha Mae” (大仏殿春日大社前). From here you can get to the Tōdai-ji in a 5 minutes walk.
From Tōkyō and Kyōto
Coming from Tōkyō you have to get to Kyōto station, usually by Shinkansen hi-speed train. Then you need to transfer to the local line Nara line, and you will reach Nara JR station in 45 minutes. The whole journey takes 3 hours and 20 minutes and costs 15.000 yen, which are totally covered by the Japan Rail Pass (however the Nara loop bus has to be payed separately).
You can get to Kyōto and Nara by a night bus as well, which costs 4.000 yen (however consider that it can be more expensive during season peak periods).
By clicking on the link provided here you will be able to check the seat availability and the tickets prices: http://tinyurl.com/n6h69ov
Since the recent expanding of low cost companies, you can get to Kansai International Airport from Tōkyō’s Haneda and Narita airports in an even cheaper way than with the Shinkansen trains. Once you are there you can choose to use the JR line or the Nankai plus Kintetsu combination to go to Nara.
Travelling on the JR line is suggested, especially if you have bulky luggage. You can reach Nara in 90 minutes at the price of 1.700 yen. From the airport, take the train heading to Ōsaka city centre. At Tennōji Station transfer to the Yamatoji Line and get off at Nara JR Station.
By traveling on the Nankai and Kintetsu lines, you can get to Nara in 2 hours at the price of 1.500 yen. From the airport’s station take the Nankai Line and get off at Nanba Station. From here you can walk to Ōsaka Nanba Station by foot and then take the train to Nara.
※There are many stations and lines in Nanba, and moving from a station to another passing through the underground shopping district might take some time: that’s why we advice you to travel on the JR line.
From the airport you can also take a highway bus which will lead you to Nara in 90 minutes at the price of 2.000 yen.
Taking this bus doesn’t require line transfers, so it’s the easiest and most comfortable way to get to Nara.
Coming from Ōsaka‘s centre, take the Yamatoji Line form Ōsaka Station and get off at Nara JR Station, or you can take the Kintetsu line from Nanba Station if you are staying in the southern area.
My impressions on Tōdai-ji
I’ve been several times to the Tōdai-ji, always walking form Kintetsu Nara Station.
Going East from the station’s exit you enter Nara Park: here you can see the deer hanging freely around. They are mild, cute animals; there’s no reason to be afraid of them. Anyway, if you have some food with you, they will come closer seeking for it. If you want to feed them you can buy some rice crackers for deer in the park. When I tried to give them some they were very impatient.
Walking from the park to the temple there are many souvenir shops one next to the other. And the end of the route, you arrive at Tōdai-ji Nandai-mon, Tōdai-ji’s big southern gate.
To enter the Daibutsu-den (the big wooden hall enshrining the statue) you have to buy the entry ticket: it costs 500 yen but for 800 yen you can also visit the temple’s museum.
Finally let’s enter in the Daibutsu-den!
In the ancient building you can feel smell of wood, and immediately the Big Buddha’s impressive figure appears. Behind it there are many Bodhisattva statues and not far from them other two big statues take place. All these statues create a mysterious and solemn atmosphere.
The Daibutsu-den is a interesting place: just next to the big statue’s right hand, there is a pillar with a hole on the base. It is said to be as big as the Big Buddha’s nose. If you can pass through it, you will attain illuminationin your next life. I didn’t go through it, but I will try next time!
In the temple’s park there are some weeping cherry trees, they are beautiful in Spring. I didn’t see them blooming either, but next time I will surely do…
Even if simply, I introduced the Tōdai-ji temple. In ancient times, Nara was the heart of Japanese culture, as well as one of its capitals, and so there are many places here that are World Heritages.
In the next articles we will talk again about this city, further updates are on their way!