Nara Todaiji Temple
The Todaiji Temple is located in the famous Nara Park and is the world’s largest wooden structure. The origins of the Tōdaiji lie in a temple called Kinshō-ji which was founded in 728 for the repose of the spirit of Crown Prince Motoi, son of Emperor Shōmu. In 741, when the Emperor ordered the construction of a national system of monasteries (Kinkōmyō-ji) known as the Kokubun-ji, the Kinshō-ji was elevated in status. In 743 Emperor Shōmu asked for the erection of a Great Buddha Image and when the capital was returned to Heijō (Nara), construction of the colossal image of Vairocana was begun on the grounds of the Kinkōmyō-ji and was completed in 749. Construction of the Great Buddha Hall took place concurrently and the image was dedicated in 752 with a lavish consecration ceremony.
According to records kept by Tōdai-ji, more than 2,600,000 cumulative people in total helped construct the Great Buddha and its Hall; contributing rice, wood, metal, cloth, or labor; with 350,000 working directly on the statue’s construction.
In 1180 more than half of the compound including the Great Buddha Hall was destroyed in the fire that resulted from the attack on the Nara temples by Taira no Shigehira. In the next year restoration of the temple was begun by the monk Chōgen (1121-1206) and in 1185 the Great Buddha was consecrated. In the following year, the Province of Suō (Yamaguchi Prefecture) was designated to provide income for the reconstruction of Tōdai-ji, and the pace of the work increased.
Ten years later the Great Buddha Hall was completed. As the temple was reconstructed scholastic activities which had been stagnant were also revived and during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) the temple trained many scholar-monks.
The start of the Meiji period in 1868 saw the separation of Shinto and Buddhist religious establishments, and the confiscation of temple lands threatened the existence of Tōdai-ji. Nevertheless, the temple managed to carry out major repairs to the Great Buddha Hall at the start of this century and again in the 1970s and has striven to preserve the extensive compound with all its structures.
Tōdai-ji today preserves many precious cultural treasures from the temple’s past, yet it also is a treasure house of traditional Buddhist rituals.
Many people from throughout Japan and the world visit the temple to worship and pay their respects every year.
Kintetsu-Nara or JR-Nara station, or Himurojinja-Kokuritsuhakubutsukan bus stop
Adult 600 yen, elementary student 300 yen
April to October: From 7:30 to 17:30 (last entry 17:00)
November to March: From 8:00 to 17:00 (last entry 17:30)