Nara (奈良)

Nara, or 奈良, a historic city in Japan, was once Heijo-kyo Capital.
Nara' was sometimes written as '那羅,' '平城,' or '寧楽.'
After the capital was moved to Heian-kyo Capital (Kyoto), the city was called Nanto.


In the Nara period when Nara was Heijo-kyo Capital, the city, as the end of the Silk Road, witnessed the flourishing of international Tenpyo culture, and, with magnificent temple buildings standing side by side, the city brought many important cultural assets into the world. The city is home to the largest number of National Treasure structures in Japan.

In terms of literature, Japan's earliest history books and poem anthologies, such as "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters), "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) and fudoki (description of regional climate, culture, etc.), were compiled.

Even after the relocation of the capital to the Heian-kyo Capital, Nara, known by the name Nanto, had significant impact on Japanese religious and cultural histories.

Today, the city is vibrant throughout the year with old and new events, and attracts many tourists from Japan and abroad as an international tourist and cultural city.

Commemorative Events of the 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital are scheduled to be held in 2010.

For Nara after the Meiji Restoration, refer to 'Nara City.'

For the prefecture of Nara, refer to 'Nara Prefecture.'


710: The capital was moved from Fujiwara-kyo to Heijo-kyo.

724: Emperor Shomu came to the throne.

729: The Conspiracy of Prince Nagaya took place.

752: A ceremony to consecrate the Great Buddha of Todai-ji Temple was held. Shuni-e (Omizu-tori or Sacred Water-drawing Festival) began at Nigatsu-do Hall of Todai-ji Temple.

753: Jianzhen came to Japan from Tang Dynasty.

764: Rebellion of FUJIWARA no Nakamaro (EMI no Oshikatsu)

784: The capital was moved from Heijo-kyo to Nagaoka-kyo.

1136: The Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri Festival began.

1180: TAIRA no Shigehira provoked the attack on Nanto, and had Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji Temples burnt (Nanto Yakiuchi).

1533: Takama-ichi and then Minami-ichi Fairs were held in the town of Nara.

1559: Hisahide MATSUNAGA had Tamonyama-jo Castle built and lived in the castle.

1567: The head of the statue of Birushana Buddha in Todai-ji Temple was burnt down during the Battle of Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji Temple.

1613: The Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) created a post of Nara bugyo (magistrate).

1664: The Edo bakufu placed Nara under its direct control, and set up Nanto daikansho (regional office of administrative official).

1704: About 2,000 houses were burnt down in the great fire in the town of Nara.

1868: As the Nara bugyo was abolished, Kofuku-ji Temple took charge of town administration, and Yamato Chinbu Sotoku-fu (Yamato pacification government-general office) and then Nara-fu were established.

1875: The first Nara Exhibition was held in the cloister of the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji Temple.

1880: Nara Park opened.

1892: The railway opened between Nara and Minatomachi, Osaka.

1895: Imperial Museum of Nara (present-day Nara National Museum) was inaugurated.

1898: The municipal system of Nara City was implemented.

1910: The 1200th Anniversary Festival of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital was held.

1914: Osaka Electric Tramway (present-day Kintetsu Nara Line) began operating between Uehonmachi Station in Osaka and Nara Station.

1921: Heijo Palace Site was designated as a historic site.

1988: 90th anniversary of the municipal system of Nara City. Nara Silk Road Exposition was held. Remains of Prince Nagaya's mansion were excavated at the Heijo Palace Site.

1998: 100th anniversary of the municipal system of Nara City. The historic monuments of ancient Nara were registered as a World Heritage.

2010: Commemorative Events of the 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital are scheduled to be held.

Sightseeing Spots

Heijo Palace Site: A World Heritage site
The Heijo Palace Site Museum of Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
Suzaku-mon Gate
Hokke-ji Temple
Kairyuo-ji Temple: Its five-story small pagoda is designated as a National Treasure.
Saidai-ji Temple (Nara City)
Nara Park
Mt. Wakakusa
Todai-ji Temple: A World Heritage site, one of the seven great temples of Nara
Shosoin Repository: A World Heritage site
Kofuku-ji Temple: A World Heritage site, one of the seven great temples of Nara
Sarusawa-ike Pond
Nara National Museum
Kasuga-taisha Shrine: A World Heritage site
Mt. Kasuga Primeval Forest: A World Heritage site
Nara Hotel
Irie Taikichi Memorial Museum of Photography Nara City
Shinyakushi-ji Temple
SHIGA Naoya Kyukyo (the former residence of Naoya SHIGA) (Takabatake Salon)
Byakugo-ji Temple
Zuto (head mound)
Gango-ji Temple: A World Heritage site, one of the seven great temples of Nara
Koshin-do Hall (Nara)
Nara Kitamachi
Remains of Tamonyama-jo Castle: Hisahide MATSUNAGA's castle
Hannya-ji Temple: Its two-story gate is designated as a National Treasure.
Futai-ji Temple: A temple associated with ARIWARA no Narihira
Yakushi-ji Temple: A World Heritage site, one of the seven great temples of Nara
Toshodai-ji Temple: A World Heritage site, one of the seven great temples of Nara
Akishino-dera Temple
Other areas
Daian-ji Temple: One of the seven great temples of Nara, best known for sasazake (hot Japanese sake in a bamboo cup) to prevent senility
Obitoke-dera Temple

Festivals and Events
Mountain burning at Mt. Wakakusa (January)
Konine at Daian-ji Temple (January)
Shuni-e (Omizu-tori) at Todai-ji Temple (March)
Ochamorishiki tea ceremony at Saidai-ji Temple (Nara City) (April)
Anniversary celebration of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital (April)
Takigi Noh (Noh performance played at night) (May)
Uchiwamaki (fan-throwing festival) at Toshodai-ji Temple (May)
Saigusa-matsuri Festival – Yuri-matsuri Festival - at Isagawa-jinja Shrine (June)
Takekuyo (comforting the soul of bamboo) at Daian-ji Temple (June)
Daimonji Okuribi (the Great Bonfire Event) (August)
Bantoro Festival (Lantern Festival) at Kasuga-taisha Shrine (February and August)
Nara Tokae Festival (Candle Festival) (August) (Nara Tokae Festival)
Basara-matsuri Festival (August)
Shiba Noh (September)
Uneme-matsuri Festival (September)
The deer antler-cutting ceremony (October)
Shosoin ten (Exhibition of Shosoin Treasures)
Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri Festival (December)


According to the widely accepted theory, the word 'Nara' is derived from 'nara (su)' meaning 'flat or even (land).'
The word, however, comes directly from 'quickly led elite soldiers up to Mt. Nara where the soldiers fought a war. Then, the Imperial army soldiers got together to stamp (narasu, 蹢跙す) the plants. Therefore, the mountain was given the name Mt. Nara. Here, '蹢跙' means to stamp.' (88 B.C., "Nihonshoki")
Some theories suggest that 'Nara' comes from the Korean word '나라 (pronounced as nara)' meaning 'country.'
These theories, however, lack historical grounds, and literature, etc. showing that '나라 (pronounced as nara)' was used in Korea during the time of the Manyoshu when the name 'Nara' appeared are yet to be found.

[Original Japanese]