Nara is an ancient city rich in history and culture. The city’s urban area has numerous tourist sights such as Todai-ji, and Kofuku-ji, around Nara Park. Here is a local’s guide to little-known tourist spots among them. In addition to visiting famous tourist sights, please try going these little-known places to experience Nara’s charms to the fullest.
1. Right next to the great statue of Buddha, “Nigatsu-do”
Nara might make you think of its famous Daibutsu (great statue of Buddha) and Todai-ji. But there are not that many who have visited Nigatsu-do, which is closer to the great statue. Located behind Nigatsu-do, the temple is known for being a venue for “Omizutori (water drawing ceremony)” or “Shuni-e,” and housing the principal statue of the “eleven-faced Kannon,” just like Sangatsu-do (Hokke-do) temple, a national treasure.
2. Trying to see the five-storied pagoda at Kofukuji? Head to “Sarusawa no Ike”
Kofukuji is famous for its five-storied pagoda. But the pond next to it, “Sarusawa no Ike” is also worthy of your interest. The pagoda’s reflection on the surface of the pond and the surrounding willow trees make for a beautiful sight. Near the pond is a shrine, Uneme Jinja, dedicated to woman who threw herself into the pond after falling in impossible love with the emperor. Every year, on the day of Chushu no Meigetsu (the day of harvest moon), there is Uneme-matsuri, a fantastic Japanese event involving orchestral performances on boats. The pond can be reached within walking distance from JR Nara Station through Sanjo-dori, a street perfect for shopping as it is known for its abundance of local merchandise shops and restaurants, sushi (Nara’s specialty) restaurants, as well as the famous Mikasa. If looking for a hotel, it is recommended to find one near the Station as well as Sanjo-dori as there will be plenty of options available. Besides being a good place for staying, the area is also ideal for getting a feel for the local atmosphere of “Naramachi” with the historic atmosphere created by the buildings and houses.
3. Go to “Shinyakushiji” to see the Yakushinyorai Statue and Japan’s oldest, Twelve Heavenly Generals
The third point is Shinyakushiji. Located a bit away from Kintetsu and JR Lines as well as Todai-ji, Kofuku-ji and even Kasuga-taisha, Shinyakushiji may be a spot quite difficult to go on your first visit, but is a stunning place tourists who come back regret not having visited sooner. As its name suggests, the temple houses the statue of Yakushinyorai, but that’s not all. Surrounding the Yakushinyorai are twelve heavenly generals with unique expressions and poses commissioned to protect the Buddha. One of Japan’s oldest, these statues are called Jyunijinsho, or the Twelve Heavenly Generals. They are also on 500-yen stamps and iconic enough for some people to recognize. Please see the twelve generals’ unique expressions and poses for yourself.
Top image：奈良町宿 紀寺の家
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