A temple housing several important cultural properties and designated as japan‘s first UNESCO World Heritage Site
Horyuji Temple is a historic and culturally significant site located in Nara, Japan. With a history spanning over 14 centuries, it has served as a place of religious practice and preservation of Japanese heritage. Designated as Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, Horyuji Temple is a testament to the rich cultural history of Japan.
Founded in 607 by Empress Suiko and Prince Shotoku, Horyuji Temple holds great historical significance. Prince Shotoku, a regent to the Empress and a devout Buddhist, played a crucial role in promoting Buddhism within Japan. It is said that he promulgated “The Seventeen-Article Constitution,” Japan’s first statutory law, in 604. Prince Shotoku also sent envoys to Sui Dynasty China to acquire advanced culture and systems, which helped propel Japan’s progression.
The temple grounds of Horyuji span approximately 187,000 square meters and house 55 buildings that have been designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. The architecture and structures within the temple grounds offer a glimpse into Japan’s past, particularly during the 7th century. The most notable structures include the Kondo hall, the five-storied pagoda, the central gate, and the corridor in the Saiin Garan western precincts. These wooden structures are among the oldest existing wooden buildings in the world, showcasing the remarkable craftsmanship and preservation techniques of ancient Japan.
One of the highlights of Horyuji Temple is the five-storied pagoda, which is the oldest surviving wooden structure in the world. Standing at approximately 32.5 meters tall, the pagoda’s central pillar is believed to have been carved from a cypress tree cut down in 594. The pagoda’s flexible joints allow it to withstand Japan’s frequent seismic activity, making it a remarkable feat of engineering and architectural design.
Another significant structure within Horyuji Temple is the Kondo hall, the oldest surviving wooden building in the world. This hall enshrines some of the temple’s most important cultural properties and was once adorned with elaborate paintings of the Pure Land and bodhisattvas. Although these paintings were damaged in a fire, reproductions are now on display for public viewing.
The east precinct of Horyuji Temple is home to the Yumedono, or the Hall of Dreams. This octagonal-shaped structure was built on the site of Prince Shotoku’s private palace and serves as a memorial to his contributions in promoting Buddhism in Japan. Legend has it that Prince Shotoku had a dream in which a golden Buddha appeared to him, hence the name “Hall of Dreams.” The Yumedono is another testament to the rich history and cultural significance of Horyuji Temple.
In total, Horyuji Temple houses approximately 2,500 important historical and cultural relics and structures, providing a comprehensive depiction of Japanese history over the past 1,400 years. Nearly 190 of these artifacts have been designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties, reflecting their significance in preserving Japan’s cultural heritage.
To visit Horyuji Temple, there are several transportation options available. From JR Osaka Station, visitors can take the Yamatoji Line on the Osaka Loop Line and alight at JR Horyuji Station. From there, it is a 20-minute walk to the temple. Alternatively, there are buses bound for Horyu-ji Sando that stop at the Horyu-ji Sando stop. Travelers coming from JR Kyoto Station can take the Nara Line on the Yamatoji Line and get off at JR Horyuji Station. From the station, Horyuji Temple is accessible on foot or by bus. Those coming from Kintetsu Kyoto Station can take the Kintetsu Kyoto/Kashihara Line and get off at Kintetsu Tsutsui Station. From there, a bus bound for JR Oji Station can be taken, with the Horyuji-mae stop being the nearest to the temple.
Aside from exploring Horyuji Temple, visitors to Nara can also immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and culture. Nara was once the capital of Japan and is home to many historical and cultural heritage sites. Nara Park, located near Horyuji Temple, offers a serene environment with beautiful greenery and is home to the Nara National Museum. This art museum showcases Buddhist artworks and provides insights into the history of Japanese Buddhism. Kofukuji Temple and Todaiji Temple are also prominent landmarks in Nara, with the latter housing the famous Great Buddha statue. Additionally, Nara is known for its annual Omizutori Festival, a sacred water-drawing ceremony that features spectacular displays said to protect observers from illness and evil.
In conclusion, Horyuji Temple stands as a testament to Japan’s rich cultural heritage and history. With its ancient wooden structures, important cultural properties, and designation as Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the temple offers a unique glimpse into Japan’s past. Visitors to Horyuji Temple can immerse themselves in 14 centuries of history and tradition, exploring the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures and observing the vast collection of important cultural relics. As part of a visit to Nara, Horyuji Temple allows travelers to delve into the long and winding history of Japan, experiencing the beauty and significance of this remarkable cultural site.
Address And Maps Location:
1-1 Horyuji Sannai, Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara-ken