An In-Depth Analysis of the Must-See Spots at Kohfukuji Temple, A World Heritage Site With Over 1,300 Years of History
Kohfukuji Temple is a famous sightseeing spot that represents Nara, the ancient capital of Japan, along with Todai-ji Temple. Registered as a World Heritage Site, this temple is home to many National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. Below are the highlights of this temple that all visitors should take the time to see!
What is Kohfukuji Temple?
Kohfukuji is a temple that is located inside Nara Park, which is famous for Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine). Boasting strong influence for being a powerful temple that converted the mighty Fujiwara into a devout believer, this temple held the real power of the Yamato provincial constable during the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333). It essentially dominated the entire Yamato province (present Nara Prefecture).
There was a time when this temple was destroyed, but today, it is a temple with vast grounds that is listed as one of the Seven Great Temples of Nara, along with Todai-ji and Horyu-ji. It is one of the leading ancient temples of Japan, with a history that dates back more than 1,300 years. It houses numerous National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties of Japan. It is also registered as a World Heritage Site for being a “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara”.
Highlights of Kohfukuji Temple
Eastern Golden Hall
The Eastern Golden Hall (“Tokondo” in Japanese) is a temple hall that was built in 726 to pray for the recovery of the aunt of the Emperor back then. However, the building that stands today was rebuilt in 1415. This structure heavily reproduces the atmosphere of olden days with its yosemune-zukuri (hipped) roof and other features, which is partly why this hall has been designated as one of Japan’s National Treasures. Enshrined inside are four National Treasures, including the wooden statue of a seated Monju Bosatsu. You can also find two Important Cultural Properties of Japan, including the copper image of Yakushi Nyorai.
Adults: 300 JPY
Junior high and high school students: 200 JPY
Elementary school students: 100 JPY
Built in 730, the Five-Storied Pagoda (“Goju-no-to” in Japanese) is a pagoda (stupa housing Buddha’s ashes) that is said to be the symbol of Nara. It has been designated as a National Treasure. After being burned down multiple times, it was rebuilt in 1426, and now measures 50.1m in height. It has retained the features of the pagoda from the Nara period (710 – 794), including roofs that adopt the hongawarabuki (hip-and-gable roof) style that alternately uses flat and concave tiles.
The one thing that you have to see is the view from Sarusawa-ike (Sarusawa Pond) inside Nara Park. The pagoda reflects on the pond to create a symmetrical image, so it makes for a great photo spot. The vista is particularly magical when the pagoda is lit up.
The Three-Storied Pagoda (“Sanju-no-to” in Japanese) is a National Treasure that was erected in 1143. The current pagoda was rebuilt right after the fire in 1180, so it is considered as the oldest structure in Kohfukuji, together with the Northern Round Hall (“Hokuendo” in Japanese). It stands at a height of 19.1m, with its first level at 4.8m. Just like the Five-Storied Pagoda, this pagoda has a hip-and-gable roof, using an architectural style from the Heian period (794 – 1185).
Northern Round Hall
Built in 721, the Northern Round Hall is acclaimed to be the most beautiful structure among the Hakkaku Endo (octagon-shaped temples) that currently exist in Japan. The current structure was rebuilt around 1210, but it retained its original design, including the hip-and-gable roof. One side of the octagonal structure measures 4.9m, while the opposite side is 11.7m. This hall has been designated as a National Treasure. From this area, people back then were able to capture a panoramic view of Heijyokyo (ancient Nara), which was the capital of Japan at that time.
Another must-see spot here is the Southern Round Hall (“Nan-endo” in Japanese) (Important Cultural Property) – the ninth station in the pilgrimage of the 33 Kannon temples of Western Japan. You can find it south of the Northern Round Hall. In an later excavation, it was found that Wado-kaichin coins, which was the currency at that time, and Ryuhei Eiho coins were buried in the hall to appease the deity of the land during the time when the foundation of the building was being created. It is considered as the largest octagonal hall in Japan, with one side of the octagonal structure measuring 6.4m and the opposite side measuring 15.5m.
Kohfukuji National Treasure Hall
The Kohfukuji National Treasure Hall (“Kokuhokan” in Japanese) is a treasure hall that was built on the site of the Jikido (dining hall) where Buddhist monks ate. Stored inside this hall are numerous Buddhist statues, paintings, and handicrafts – most of which are designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties of Japan. The statue of Ashura (fighting demon) is one particular masterpiece in this hall that continues to fascinate plenty of guests today.
※Closed until December 31, 2017 (Sunday) due to works aimed at improving the building’s resistance to earthquakes
Adults: 600 JPY
Junior high and high school students: 500 JPY
Elementary school students: 200 JPY
If you find yourself interested in Kohfukuji Temple after reading this article, then by all means, visit the temple at least once!
*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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