Toshodaiji Temple is located in the south western outskirts of Nara where once it was in the centre of Nara, when it was the capital of Japan over 1200 years ago.
In 759 AD, on the invitation of the Emperor Shomu, the Buddhist monk, Ganjin, from Jiangyin, China, today known as Yangzhou, established the first temple in Japan devoted to Chinese Buddhist teachings.
The easiest way to get there is by bus(70 or 72) from JR Nara train station. Travel time is about 15 minutes, 250 yen. Get off at Toshodaiji bus stop, which is basically at the front Southern gate.
You can travel by train from Kintetsu Nara but involves change of trains at Yamato-Saidaiji to Kintetsu Kashihara Line then travel to Station Nishinokyo Station, which is located just beside Yakushiji Temple.
I actually walked from JR Nara via Tomb of The Emperor Suinin then onto Toshodaiji Temple then back to JR Nara station. The casual walk only took 4 hours with plenty of time at each site and a few stops on the way.
Once you arrive at Toshodaiji (Entry fee is 600 yen), you enter through the Nandai-mon (Southern Great Gate) and immediately view Kondo or “Golden Hall (Main Hall),” which is the greatest structure of the 8th century remaining in Japan today.
A pathway to the left takes you into the western section, where you will find an ordination platform. On right of Kondo is the Kodo Lecture Hall, which was moved to Toshodaiji from the Nara Imperial Palace, and is now the only surviving building of the former palace. Beside the Kodo, on the eastern side are two azekuras, or wooden repositories, one for the storage of precious sutras and the other for treasures.
Behind the Kondo, well back in the temple grounds is the Meay-do being an example of the housing and life style of the aristocrats around 1000 AD. Attached to the Meay-do is a special garden where you can view the Keika or Qiong-hua flower, from Yangzhou in China, which was presented to the temple in 1963, in commemoration of 1200 years of Ganjin's death. Apparently it is a symbol of transformation from late spring to early summer. The garden is only open to the public when the Keika is in bloom. I was lucky to visit the garden on the 24th April to see the Keika in full flower.
Small paths, with thick overhanging foliage, various link sites across the temple grounds. The temple also has a large bell from the Heian period that can be found along one of these pathways.
Wandering through the various tree lined pathways you can appreciate the tranquility that the surrounding nature would have inspired Ganjin and his devotees in the pursuit of their religious pursuits.
Ganjin's grave rests quietly in the North East corner of the temple site, at the end of a woody path, passing through a moss garden, within high Japanese maple and cypress pine trees, across a small tree lined pond, to a small unassuming burial mound. A temizuya, a customary water fountain, with ladles greet you to purify yourself before approaching Ganjin’s resting place.
As noted by other contributors, this is Toshodaiji Temple, not to be confused with the much larger Todaiji Temple, which is located on the eastern side of Nara, with its vendors, tourist crowds and deer. Unfortunately some of the posts to this site relate to Todaiji, not Toshodaiji, so please be aware of the difference.
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