The central area of Nara Prefecture used to be called “kun-naka,” which literally means center of the nation, and the area was the miyako, where several Imperial capitals of Japan were located, including Haseasakura, Iware, Asuka, and Fujiwara-kyo. Located in this area with a long and distinguished history, Hase-dera Temple, Murou-ji Temple, Oka-dera Temple, and Abe Monjyu-in Temple all have a history of over 1,200 years and enshrine Buddha statues which have been designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. Learn and feel the history and culture of Japan by appreciating magnificent statues of National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties while also enjoying beautiful flowers in the temple grounds in this sacred land.
Established in the year 686, the area “Hase” has been a sacred place from ancient times, often appearing in Japanese classical literature, such as Japan’s oldest collection of waka poems, “Manyoshu” (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), “Genji Monogatari” (The Tale of Genji), and “Makurano-soshi” (The Pillow Book). The
honzon (the main object of worship) statue, Juichimen Kanzeon Bosatsu (Eleven Faced Kannon), is over 10-meters tall, known as one of the largest wooden Buddha statues in Japan. The temple is surrounded by gorgeous flowers all year around: cherry blossoms and botan (peonies) in spring, hydrangeas in summer, maple leaves in autumn, and winter peonies in winter. This is the eighth temple on the Kannon Pilgrimage to 33 sites in Saigoku (Western Japan).
8:30-17:00 (Apr.-Sept.), 9:00-16:30 (Oct.-Mar.)
*Extended open hours during Botan Matsuri peony festival and other events.
Adults: 500 yen, Children: 250 yen
15 minutes on foot from Kintetsu Hasedera Sta.
731-1 Hase, Sakurai City, Nara Pref.
Even during the time when most temples banned women from entering their precincts, this temple mercifully accepted female worshippers. As opposed to Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture, which is widely known as strictly banning the entrance of women in the past, Murou-ji Temple has been affectionately called “Koya for women.” Located deep in the mountains, the temple has been worshipped as the hallow ground of the god of Water and the Dragon god. The honzon statue enshrined in Kon-do Hall (Golden Hall) is Shaka Nyorai.
8:30-17:00 (Apr.-Nov.), 9:00-16:00 (Dec.-Mar.)
Adults: 600 yen, Children 400 yen
Bus from Murouguchi-Ono Sta. on Kintetsu Line to “Murou-ji” bus stop
78 Murou, Uda City, Nara Pref.
Established in the year 663, the formal name of Oka-dera Temple is Ryugai-ji Temple. Nyoirin Kannon, the principal object of worship, is the largest clay Buddha statue in Japan and was created in the Nara Period (the 8th century). Known as Japan’s first hallowed ground for repelling evil, the temple has been visited by many supplicants from all over the nation.
8:00-17:00 (Mar.-Nov.), 8:00-16:30 (Dec.-Feb.)
Adults: 300 yen (will be raised to 400 yen from Dec. 2015), Children: free
Bus from Kashihara-jingumae Sta. on Kintetsu Line to “Okadera-mae” bus stop
806 Oka, Asuka-mura Village, Takaichi-gun District, Nara Pref.
Abe Monju-in Temple
Established in the year 645, this special head temple of the Todai-ji branch of the Kegon sect is one of the oldest temples in Japan. The honzon statue of Monjyu Bosatsu is a National Treasure. It is Japan’s tallest statue, with a height of 7 meters, and was created by Kaikei, one of Japan’s foremost Buddha statue sculptors, in the 13th century. The temple also has a collection of many treasures and other Buddha statues.
9:00-17:00, Kito prayers registration: 9:00-16:00
A: A tour of Hon-do Hall (including maccha green tea and Japanese sweets), Adults: 700 yen, Children: 500 yen
B: A tour of Kinkaku Ukimi-do Hall (including a Shichi-mairifuda paper charm and omamori talisman), Adults: 700 yen, Children: 500 yen
A+B: A ticket for both tours, Adults: 1,200 yen, Children: 800 yen
Bus from Sakurai Sta. on Kintetsu and JR lines to “Abe-monjuin-mae” bus stop
645 Abe Sakurai City, Nara Pref.
Most visitors to Nara go to the northern part with the famous Great Buddha statue and the tame deer, and not many go to the central area; however, it is a convenient area with great accessibility of only about one hour and 40 minutes by limousine bus from Kansai Airport. Enjoy learning the history of Japan at the birthplace of the nation.
The four temples above established “Nara-Yamato Four Temple Pilgrimage Association” in May 2015, and have been working together to provide various services for tourists. For each group of tourists on a pilgrimage to the four temples, the association can organize a tour with monks for guiding in the temples and an interpreter tour guide for free. Free Wi-Fi is installed around the reception area of each temple. Using QR codes, you can get a guide map for each temple (available in Japanese, English, traditional and simplified Chinese, Korean, and French). If you are a tourist from outside Japan, you can even use a credit card for payment at these temples (this service is limited to foreign tourists). A personal tour pass for the four temples will be available from September 2015 for 2,200 yen, and pass purchasers will receive a commemorative souvenir, a set of beautiful sange woodblock prints and color photos of honzon statues at the four temples.