Located near Todai-ji in Nara Prefecture, Saki-Sahoji is a characteristic area that used to be home to many mansions and villas of aristocrats. It's now filled with plenty of historical landmarks and temples. Here are 5 interesting spots you shouldn't miss in Saki-Sahoji!
Founded in 847, Futai-ji's apperance is similar to an old aristocratic residence. It is renowned for its strong connection to the famous waka poet Ariwara no Narihira (825 - 880). In particular, it is said that the standing Kannon statue in the main hall was the work of Narihira himself. From the two-storied pagoda to the south front gate, the premises are scattered with several National Important Cultural Assets. Plus, it's surrounded by over 500 species of plants that create a stunning green landscape.
Regular exhibition entrance fee: Adults 500 JPY, Junior High and High School Students 300 JPY, Elementary School Students 200 JPY
This is the central temple of all the Kokubunniji (state-supported convents) of the Nara era (710-794). With Todai-ji being its counterpart in serving as the headquarters of state-funded temples, its history dates back to 1,250 years ago. Empress Komyo (701-760), who founded it, dedicated herself to the social welfare of poor people and orphans. Inside the temple, she established a bathing room with a steam bath to clean the bodies of more than a thousand people. Moreover, the statue of the 11-faced Kannon, designated as a National Treasure, is said to represent the figure of the Empress walking on a lotus pond. Also, don't miss the dog amulets, which are charms for safe childbirth and protection from misfortune, or the famous gardens of the monk's residence.
Main hall entrance fee: Adults 500 JPY, Junior High School Students 300 JPY, Elementary School Students 200 JPY
*When the main idol of worship is on display: Adults 700 JPY, Junior High School Students 500 JPY, Elementary School Students 300 JPY
Empress Komyo established this temple in 731 to encourage the spread of Buddhism and its doctrine. It had the role of protecting the northeastern gate (considered an unlucky direction since ancient times) of Heijo Palace. It's also a renowned spot where travelers and exchange students pray for safety since times past. According to legends, Genbo, the first generation chief monk, while sailing, was rescued by Kairyuo, the deity that protects the Buddhist doctrine. The Saikon-do hall (Important Cultural Property) and the National Treasure 5-storied pagoda, which have stood there since the temple's construction, demonstrate the architectural style of that period.
Entrance fee: Adults 500 JPY, Junior High and High School Students 200 JPY, Elementary School Students 100 JPY
4. Ruins of Heijo Palace (Nara Palace Site Historical Park)
This spot held a central place in Heijo-kyo, the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. At the time, it hosted important facilities like the Emperor's residence and the government administration office. Today, the remaining ruins are registered as a World Heritage Site. The major attraction is the renewed Daigokuden (Council Hall). With a facade of around 44m and lateral walls of 20m, it's a magnificent palace made of 44 vermilion pillars with a diameter of 70cm, and around 97,000 roof tiles. Other must-see features include the restored gate called Sujaku-mon and the temple garden, which looks different every season. Plus, in March 2018, a complex of facilities like the Tempyo Miharashi-kan was opened, providing even more features to explore in the area.
The last state-sponsored temple of Nara era, built in 780. It sits in the middle of a woodland north-west of Heijo-kyo. The main hall, designated as a National Treasure, and the 25 Buddha statues are definitely worth a visit. The statue of Kigenten, also called "the oriental muse", is especially gorgeous and very evocative. It is designated as a National Important Cultural Asset. Worshiped as the deity of the arts, she is prayed to by many artists and performers.
Entrance fee: High School Students and above 500 JPY, Junior High School Students and below: free
If you're planning a trip to Todai-ji, make sure you save some time to stop by Saho-Sakiji area as well!
*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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