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The World’s Largest Wooden Structure! All You Need to Know About Todaiji in Nara

Todaiji is one of Nara's iconic tourist destinations. It is famous for the Kondo (Great Buddha Hall), where the Daibutsu statue is, but there is much more to see. Here are some spots in Todaiji that you won't want to miss.

1. What is Todaiji?

Todaiji is a temple in the popular tourist destination, Nara Park. In 743, the emperor at the time issued an edict ordering the construction of a Daibutsu (giant Buddha statue) and the temple was built as a place to enshrine the statue and protect the country. Many large structures were built one after another, but most of them burned down on the two occasions that the temple was set on fire. The current building was reconstructed between the Kamakura to Edo Periods (1185 - 1867).

1. What is Todaiji?

406-1 Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

2. Great South Gate

The Great South Gate is a 25m-high gate that is the main gate of Todaiji. It is a grand structure that is Japan's largest temple entrance gate and was reconstructed in 1203. The two statues of the Ni-o guardian deities that protect both sides of the front are powerful. The two statues, one with its mouth open and the other with it closed, create a set. It is said that the famous Kamakura Period (1185 - 1333) sculptors of Buddhist statues, Unkei and Kaikei, sculpted them with their disciples in just three months.

2. Great South Gate

406-1 Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

3. Kondo (Great Buddha Hall)

The Kondo, which is also called the Great Buddha Hall, is the world's largest wooden structure. Its size seems overwhelming, but it is said that it was even bigger than it is now when it was built. The current building was reconstructed during the Edo Period (1603 - 1867). The Great Buddha that is enshrined in it is 15m high. It is huge with a 5.3m-long face and 2.6m-long hands, but it is said that this, too, was larger than it is now when it was originally built.

Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult; 300 JPY/elementary school
Joint tickets (including Kondo and Todaiji Museum): 800 JPY/adult; 400 JPY/elementary school
*The joint tickets will go up to 1,000 JPY/adult and 400 JPY/elementary school in 2018

3. Kondo (Great Buddha Hall)

406-1 Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

4. Nigatsu-do

This is a hall that was established in 752 and rebuilt in 1669. It is a kengaizukuri-style structure built into the side of a cliff that is designated a national treasure. It is high up so you can see a panoramic view of Nara from the corridor that juts out. It is said that it was named Nigatsu-do (Second Month Hall) because the Shuni-e Ceremony is held here during the second month of the lunar calendar.

4. Nigatsu-do

406-1 Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

5. Hokke-do (Sangatsu-do)

This is the oldest structure in Todaiji. It is said to be the remains of a temple that existed before Todaiji was built. Originally, there was a separate main hall and worship hall, but the two were combined when the building was rebuilt during the Kamakura Period. The structure skillfully combines two different styles of architecture from the beginning of the Nara Period (first half of the 8th century) and the Kamakura Period (mid-13th century). The structure is called Hokkedo or Sangatsu-do because the Hokke-e (Lotus Sutra) Ceremony is held here during the third month of the lunar calendar.

Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult; 300 JPY/elementary school

5. Hokke-do (Sangatsu-do)

406-1 Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

6. Kaidan-in

This is a hall that was founded by the Chinese monk, Jian Zhen (J. Ganjin), as a place to follow the proper Buddhist precepts. In 754, Emperor Shomu and others received the Buddhist precepts on a temporary ordination platform in front of the Great Buddha Hall, and the next year, Kaidan-in was built as Japan's first official ordination hall. At that time, there was a lecture hall, priests' quarters, and corridor, but they were burnt in three fires. The current Kaidan-in was rebuilt during the Edo Period (1603 - 1867). The national treasure, the Four Divine Kings, are enshrined in the building.

Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult; 300 JPY/child

6. Kaidan-in

406-1 Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

7. Todaiji Museum

This is a facility within Todaiji Culture Center, which is the base from which education and learning, history and culture related to Todaiji is disseminated. Here, you can learn about Todaiji's 1300-year history and the teachings that is behind it. Treasures, including national treasures and important cultural properties, are exhibited. You can see sculptures, paintings, writings, and crafts up close. There is an audio guide (500 JPY to rent; English available).

Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult; 300 JPY/elementary school
Joint tickets (including Kondo and Todaiji Museum): 800 JPY/adult; 400 JPY/elementary school
*The joint tickets will go up to 1,000 JPY/adult and 400 JPY/elementary school in 2018

7. Todaiji Museum

100 Suimon-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

When you visit, be sure to pay attention to the spots introduced this time in addition to the Great Buddha.
*The entrance fee will go up to 600 JPY/adult and 300 JPY/elementary school in 2018.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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