Todai-ji Temple (東大寺)

Sango (Mountain Name): None
Denomination: Kegon
Jikaku (Status of the Temple): Daihonzan (Main Temple)
Venerated image of Buddha: Birushana-butsu (Vairocana) (National Treasure)
Founded: First half of the eighth century
Founder: Emperor Shomu
Formal Name:
Other Name(s): Konkomyo shitenno gokoku no tera
Fudasho (temples where amulets are collected) etc.: Daibutsu-den (the Great Buddha Hall) - First of the Nanto Shichi Daiji (the seven great temples of Nanto [Nara]); Sashizu-do (the hall to the west of Daibutsu-den) - 11th of the Honen Shonin Nijugo Reiseki (twenty-five places which relate to Honen Shonin); 14th of the 'shinbutsu reijo junpai no michi' (150 pilgrimage routes of Buddhist and Shinto holy places)
Cultural Properties: Kon-do Hall (Daibutsu-den), Nandai-mon Gate, Birushana-butsu (the great image of Buddha) etc. (National Treasures); Chumon Gate and Stone Lions (Important Cultural Properties)

Todai-ji is the main temple of the Kegon sect of Buddhism in Zoshi-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture in Japan. The current Betto (administrator) (Todai-ji Betto and chief priest) Dozen UENO is the 219th Betto.

The temple, also called 'Konkomyo shitenno gokoku no tera,' was erected by Emperor Shomu using all the nation's power in the Nara period (eighth century). The principal image there is Birushana Buddha, known as 'the Todai-ji rushanabutsuzo,' and the Kaizan (the first Betto) was Roben Sojo.

In the Nara period, there was a large Buddhist temple including the Great Buddha Hall (Kon-do Hall) at the center and two Nanajunoto (seven-story pagodas; estimated height 100m) on the east and the west sides, but most of the buildings were burned in two fires caused by wars after the Kamakura period. The existing Great Buddha's pedestal retains only one part from the original, and the current Great Buddha Hall was reconstructed in the Edo Period, early 18th century; it is just two-thirds the size of the original hall. As the temple of 'Daibutsu-san' (Mr Big Buddha), the temple has attracted many religious people since ancient times up to the present day and this had a great effect on Japanese culture; it was placed as 'So-Kokubunji,' the head temple of the Kokubun-ji Temples that Emperor Shomu ordered to be built in 60 Provinces of Japan at that time. For more about the Great Buddha of Nara, refer to The Statue of Birushana Buddha in Todai-ji Temple.


For more about the Great Buddha and the history of its hall refer to The Statue of Birushana Buddha in Todai-ji Temple.

Foundation of the temple and construction of the Great Buddha

The predecessor of Todai-ji Temple dates back to slightly before construction of the Great Buddha, and by the first half of the eighth century the preceding temple had been built to the east of the Great Buddha Hall, at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa. According to the "Todai-ji Yoroku" (The Digest Record of Todai-ji Temple), Konshu-ji Temple (金鐘寺 or 金鍾寺) built at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa in 733 was the predecessor of the Todai-ji Temple. On the other hand, according to the official history book "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued), in 728, the 45th emperor, Emperor Shomu and Empress Komyo set up a 'San-so' (mountain retreat) at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa to pray to Buddha for the happiness of the prince who died young, and they made nine priests live there; this is said to be the predecessor of the Konshu-ji Temple. From records it is known that by the mid eighth century, Kensaku-do Hall and the Senju-do Hall were already built in Kinshu-ji Temple, and the Kensaku-do Hall is believed to be the predecessor of the current Hokke-do Hall (= Sangatsu-do Hall; the principal image there is the Fukukenjaku Kannon [Amoghapasa] [manifestation of Amalokitesvara]). In 741 an imperial edict for the establishment of the Kokubun-ji Temples was issued, and in 742 Konshu-ji Temple was included as a Kokubun-ji Temple; the name of the temple was changed to Kinkomyo-ji.

The construction of the Great Buddha began around 747 and it is believed that the Jigo (temple name) of 'Todai-ji' also began to be used from that time. "Zou Todai-ji Shi," the name of the office for the construction of the Todai-ji Temple, first appeared in historical records in 748.

Prior to this, in 743, Emperor Shomu issued an edict to construct the Great Buddha. At that time, the capital was moved to Kuni-kyo (Kamo-cho, Soraku District, Kyoto Prefecture) but the Emperor was residing at Shigaraki no Miya Palace (current Shigaraki-cho, Koga City, Shiga Prefecture) and construction of the Great Buddha also began there. The Emperor Shomu repeatedly transferred the capital within a short period, but in 745 he moved it back to Heijo-kyo and decided to restart construction of the Great Buddha in the current location of Todai-ji Temple. To promote this huge project the Emperor needed wide support from the people, so he appointed Gyoki, who was oppressed by the Imperial Court, as the Daisojo (High Priest) and asked for his co-operation.

After a long and hard construction, the casting of the Great Buddha was completed and in 752 the Kaigan-e (ceremony of "kaigan," to enshrine a newly built Buddhist image and to put in a spirit to open eyes to Buddhism) was conducted with the priest from India Bodai Senna as the ceremony leader. After completion of the casting of the Great Buddha, the construction work for the Great Buddha Hall started; the hall construction was completed in 758.

At Todai-ji Temple, the four people Roben, Emperor Shomu, Gyoki and Bodai Senna are called 'Shisho' (The Holy Four).

The Todai-ji Temple and TACHIBANA no Naramaro

The large construction projects like those of the Great Buddha and of the Great Buddha Hall showed that Emperor Shomu never thought about the large sums of money they would cost the country and how this would worsen the nation's financial affairs. In reality, while the nobility and temples became wealthy, an increasing financial burden was placed on the peasantry; in Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara), many became homeless and died from starvation and in some regions the Soyocho tax system almost collapsed, showing the wide inconsistency of the government under the Ritsuryo codes.

On June 8, 756, Emperor Shomu (the retired Emperor Shomu at that time) died. The Revolt of TACHIBANA no Naramaro occurred in August of the same year. When TACHIBANA no Naramaro was arrested on August 8, he said to FUJIWARA no Nagate "Many people are suffering because of the construction work such as Todai-ji Temple. I plotted a rebellion because the government is outrageous." Nagate replied "The construction of Todai-ji Temple started when your father (TACHIBANA no Moroe) was around so it is none of your business. You have no reason to grumble, it is nothing to do with you," and Naramaro was stuck for an answer. The revolt of TACHIBANA no Naramaro was poorly planned so it can be described as ill-advised. However, the fact that Todai-ji Temple was even used as an excuse for a rebellion shows that construction of Todai-ji Temple was a large project aiming only to realize the Emperor's wish while totally neglecting other issues such as actual working conditions and financial affairs.

Todai-ji Temple in the Nara and Heian Periods

In the temple of Todai-ji in the Nara Period, Nandai-mon Gate, Chumon Gate, Kon-do Hall (the Great Buddha Hall) and Kodo Hall were all in a line in a north to south direction, and on the north side of the Kodo Hall the priests' living quarters were layed out in a U-shape to the east, north and west; and on the left and right sides between the Nandai-mon Gate and Chumon Gate, there were two sets (east and west) of Nanajunoto (seven-story pagodas, approximately 100m tall) and corridors surrounding them. It took almost 40 years from the beginning of construction in 745 to the completion of the whole temple.

In the Nara Period, the so-called 'Nanto Rokushu' (Six sects of Buddhism: Kegon, Hosso, Tutsu, Sanron, Jojitsu and Kusha) were more like 'school sects' rather than 'religious sects;' the concept of 'religious sects' was established after the medieval period. Therefore, at that time, it was normal to study a few different religious sects at the same temple. As for Todai-ji Temple, since the Meiji Period, temples have been required to clarify their religious sects and Todai-ji Temple is in the Kegon sect; but in the Nara Period, Todai-ji was a 'Rokushu Kengaku no tera' (Temple of syncretic study of the six sects of Buddhist learning) and inside the Great Buddha Hall, there was a 'Rokushu-zushi' (a cupboard-like case with double doors) in which textbooks of all the sects were kept. In the Nara Period, Kukai opened the Shingon sect within the temple and in the Heian Period, together with the Tendai-shu sect brought by Saicho, Todai-ji became a 'Hasshu Kengaku no tera' (Temple of syncretic study of eight sects of Buddhist learning).

In the Heian Period, Todai-ji was affected by the Emperor Kanmu's Nanto Buddhism Oppression Plan, and due to the plan the Office of Todai-ji Temple Construction was abolished, and there were incidents such as the Kodo Hall and Sanmen Sobo (priests and monks dormitories constructed to the north, east and west of the Kodo Hall) being burnt from an accidental fire, the Saito (Western Tower) being hit by lightening, and the Nandai-mon Gate and the Shoro (Bell Tower) being broken in a storm; but later on, from reverence, the Imperial family and nobility donated private estates including the Kuroda-no-sho and Todai-ji Temple developed them. Todai-ji Temple became well-known inside and outside the region as an influential group in Nara; holding many warrior monks, Todai-ji Temple directly petitioned other temples such as Kofuku-ji.

After the Medieval Period (after the Kamakura and Muromachi Periods)

Todai-ji Temple, together with its neighbor Kofuku-ji Temple, suffered devastating damage from a fire caused by TAIRA no Shigehira (Nanto Yakiuchi [the Incident of Heishi's army setting fire to the temples in Nanto]) on January 15, 1181 and lost many buildings including the Great Buddha Hall. A 61-year old priest Chogen SHUNJOBO was appointed to the position of Daikanjin (priest to collect contributions) toward reconstruction of the Great Buddha and the Halls. Due to Chogen's great efforts, the Kaigen-hoyo (ceremony of "kaigan," to enshrine a newly built Buddhist image and to put in a spirit to open eyes to Buddhism) was conducted in the presence of people such as Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa in 1185; in 1190, the reconstruction of the Great Buddha Hall was completed and the opening ceremony was conducted in the presence of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and others.

However, on November 10, 1567 of the Sengoku Period (the Warring States Period), there was a fire caused by the Battle of Miyoshi and Matsunaga, and the main buildings of Todai-ji Temple including the Great Buddha Hall were again burned (See "warrior clashes at the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji temple"). A temporary hall was built but collapsed due to strong winds in 1610, and the Great Buddha was left sitting in the open air. The repair of the Great Buddha was completed in 1691; with the efforts of Kokei Shonin (1648 - 1705) and donations by Shogun Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA, his mother Keishoin and others, reconstruction of the Great Buddha Hall was completed in 1709. The third Great Buddha Hall (the current one) has the same height and depth as the original, but the width is 30% smaller, reduced from 20m to 12.7m. The Kodo Hall, Dining Hall and the east and west Nanajunoto (seven-story pagodas) were not reconstructed after early-modern times and now only foundation stones are left at the places where they used to be.

The Temple

The temple was listed as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site and as a part of the cultural property of Ancient Nara in 1998.

On New Year's Day every year, the Chumon Gate (Important Cultural Heritage) is open to the public between midnight and 8am, and people can enter the Kon-do Hall (the Great Buddha Hall: National Treasure) with admission free (normally 500 Japanese yen for an adult and 300 yen for a child). Visiting the temple to pray is allowed after 7:30am.

Nandai-mon Gate (National Treasure)

The current gate was reconstructed in the Kamakura Period in 1199 after being broken by a typhoon in September 962 in the Heian Period. It is famous because it used architecture of the Daibutsu-yo style (Buddhist architecture style also called 'Tenjiku-yo' [Indian style]), that the restorer of Todai-ji Temple Chogen SHUNJOBO is believed to have brought from Sung Dynasty China. The characteristics of the Daubitsu-yo style are, for example, the use of many horizontal braces through vertical posts called Nuki to make the structure solid, and showing of construction material as decoration without covering with a ceiling, etc. Inside the Gate, there are a pair of statues of Kongo Rikishi (Nio, Guardians of the Temple) and a pair of stone lions (Important Cultural Property).

The wooden standing statues of Kongo Rikishi (National Treasure)

They are 8.4m tall, gigantic wooden statues. Ungyo is placed on right of the gate with his mouth closed, and Agyo is placed on the left with his mouth open. Their positioning is opposite to the normal positioning of Nio statues. Between 1988 and 1993 the statues were taken apart and repaired for the first time after their construction, and many goods and ink writings were found stored inside. According to the writings, the Agyo statue was made by master sculptors Unkei and Kaikei with 13 disciples and the Ungyo statue was made by master sculptors Jokaku and Tankei with 12 disciples. This is different from the traditional theory stating 'The Agyo statue had Kaikei and the Ungyo statue had Unkei as the main sculptor' but nonetheless, it would not be wrong to say that Unkei was the executive manager of the whole project.

Chumon Gate (Important Cultural Property)

It is a romon gate (two-storied gate) of the Irimoya-zukuri (building with a half-hipped roof) style in front of the Kon-do Hall (the Great Buddha Hall). It was reconstructed around 1716. There is a U-shaped corridor running from both sides of the Chumon Gate to both sides of the Kon-do Hall.

Kon-do Hall (Great Buddha Hall) (National Treasure)

For more about the Kon-do Hall and the principal image of Birushana Buddha, refer to The Statue of Birushana Buddha in Todai-ji Temple.

The sedentary statues of Cintamani-cakra (manifestation of Avalokitesvara) and Akasagarbha Bodhisattva (Important Cultural Property)

They are placed on both sides of the Great Buddha as attendant figures. Unlike the Great Buddha (a bronze statue), they are made of wood. They were made by the two families of sculptors of Buddhist statues led by Junkei YAMAMOTO of Kyoto and Kenkei TSUBAI of Osaka and it took them more than 30 years; they are representative Buddhist sculptures of the Edo Period. The sedentary statue of Cintamani-cakra was completed in around 1738 and the sedentary statue of Akasagarbha Bodhisattva was completed later in 1752.

Kondo Hakkaku-Toro (gilt-bronze octagonal stone lantern) (National Treasure)

This is a stone lantern standing in front of the Great Buddha Hall. Although it has been repaired often, it is basically the original one made in the Nara period. On the Hibukuro (the place where the fire is lit) there are embossed carvings of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) playing musical instruments.

Shunjo-do Hall

This is the hall to enshrine the restorer of the Great Buddha and the Great Buddha Hall in the Kamakura Period, Chogen SHUNJOBO. The current hall was reconstructed in 1704. The principal image, sitting statue of Shunjo Shonin (National Treasure) is thought to have been made directly after the Shonin died at the age of 86 and is a masterpiece of image sculpture of the Kamakura Period.

Gyoki-do Hall

This is a hall enshrining the statue of Gyoki, who was a famous priest of Nara Prefecture and contributed greatly in the construction of Todai-ji Temple.

Nenbutsu-do Hall (Important Cultural Property)

This is architecture of the Kamakura Period. It enshrines the sitting statue of Jizo Bosatsu (Important Cultural Property), also of the Kamakura period.

Shoro (bell tower) (National Treasure)

It was built in the early 13th century in the Kamakura Period. The Bonsho (the bell) (National Treasure) hanging there was made in 752, the same year as the eye-opening of the Great Buddha, and is the largest Bonsho of the premedieval eras (height 385cm, diameter of the mouth 271cm). In December 2002, there was an incident in which a subcontractor of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) drove a nail into it.

Hokke-do Hall (Sangatsu-do Hall) (National Treasure)

This is situated in the east side of the precincts of the Temple at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa. It is one of the few pieces of architecture remaining from the Nara Period and is known as the treasure house of the Tenpyo Buddhas. It was built as the Kensaku-do Hall of Konshu-ji Temple, the predecessor temple of Todai-ji Temple; according to records, it was completed by 743. Two-thirds of the north side of the building (on the observers' right from the approach), where the Buddhist statues are placed, is architecture of the Tenpyo era (from the end of the seventh to the mid eighth centuries) and the Rai-do (worship) Hall, the south part of the building, was reconstructed around 1199 by removing the decrepit original Tenpyo architecture. There are many statues enshrined inside the hall; among those, nine of the dry-lacquer statues (papier-mâché statues made of hemp cloth and lacquer) including the principal image, the standing statue of Amoghapasa (manifestation of Amalokitesvara), and five earthen images (clay statues) including the Shukongoshin-zo statue, were created in the Nara Period. Although there are many theories in regard to the exact year of making and where they were first enshrined, it is generally believed that the nine dry-lacquer statues and Shukongoshin-zo statue have been enshrined from the beginning and the other four earthen statues are Kyaku-butsu (which were moved from other Hall later on).

Dry-lacquer standing statue of Amoghapasa (National Treasure)

This was made in the Nara Period. It is 3.6m tall. This Kannon statue has three eyes running vertically on her forehead and eight arms. The coronet on her head is splendid with silver Amida Nyorai-zo (the statue of Amitabha Tathagata) on the front and many pieces of jewelry and fretworks as decoration; although we cannot normally see the statue closely, it is known as one of the best industrial arts of the Nara Period.

Clay standing statues of Nikko and Gakko Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) (National Treasures)

These were both made in the Nara Period. They quietly stand on each side of the principal image, the statue of Amoghapasa, with their hands pressed together in prayer in front of their chests. They were famous as representative works of Tenpyo sculpture but the details of their construction and original names are unknown (The name 'Nikko and Gakko Bosatsu' were used later on and they were originally Bosatsu, attendants of Yakushinyorai (Bhaisajyaguru, Buddha able to cure all ills)). The surfaces of the statues are now almost white but they were colored when they were first made. There is a theory that their original names were Bonten and Taishakuten (Brahma-Deva and Sakra devanam Indra).

Dry-lacquer standing statues of Brahma-Deva and Sakra devanam Indra (National Treasures)

These were made in the Nara Period. They are large 4m tall statues placed on each side of the principal image, the standing statue of Amoghapasa, and have an overwhelmingly relaxed and tranquil atmosphere.

Dry-lacquer standing statue of Kongo Rikishi (National Treasure)

This was made in the Nara Period.

Dry-lacquer standing statue of the Four Devas (National Treasures)

These are the four deities placed in the four corners of the Shumidan (a platform) of the Hokke-do Hall for protection; splendid illuminated patterns still remain on them, conveying the flamboyance of the Tenpyo era.

Clay standing statue of Shukongoshin (Vajrapani) (National Treasure)

This is standing on the Zushi (a cupboard-like case with double doors where the principal image Statue of Amoghapasa is kept), facing north, behind Amoghapasa. It is a warrior statue who threatens enemies with a Vajra (a tool to brush off enemies of Buddha) in his right hand and fury in his eyes. Because it has been withheld from public view, it is still keeping the original colors well. Shukongoshin is a statue showing the image of Nio-zo. It is said that the founder (first chief priest) of Todai-ji Temple Roben kept this statue beside him at all times, and it is known from the legend of TAIRA no Masakado; it has been a famous statue since ancient times. According to legend, when TAIRA no Masakado started a war in Togoku (Kanto provinces of Japan), the edge of the paper hair tie on the statue turned into a bee and flew to torment Masakado with stings. In fact, one of the edges of the statue's tie is still missing. The statue is normally withheld from public view and is only on display on December 16, the anniversary of Roben's death.

Clay standing statues of Kisshoten (Laksmi) and Benzaiten (Saraswati) (Important Cultural Property)

These were both made in the Nara Period. They are enshrined inside the Zushi in the Hall. They are made in the shape of well-rounded ladies similar to the female burial figurines found on Tang Tricolor Ceramics. Kisshoten has two arms and Benzaiten has eight arms. The chips on the statues are quite noticeable but this enables us to see the structures of the clay statues; they are valuable resources in terms of art history.

Wooden statues of Fudo (the God of Fire) and Two Children (Important Cultural Property)

These were made in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts of Japan. They are small but well-made fine works.

Wooden sitting statue of Jizo Bosatsu (Important Cultural Property)

This was made in the Kamakura Period.

Nigatsu-do Hall (National Treasure)

The name (Nigatsu means 'the second month') comes from the event called 'Omizutori' (Shuni-e) (Water-Drawing Festival) which was carried out in the second month of Japan's old lunisolar calendar. Nigatsu-do Hall survived two great fires from the incident of TAIRA no Shigehira (1180) and the battle of Miyoshi and Matsunaga (1567), but was burnt in an accidental fire during an Omizutori ceremony in 1667 and the current hall was rebuilt two years later. The principal images are two statues of Juichimen Kannon-zo (Eleven-faced Kannon) called 'Big Kannon' and 'Small Kannon' but they are kept strictly out of public view. The building was registered as a national treasure in December, 2005.

Kaisan-do Hall (National Treasure)

This hall enshrines the statue of Kaisan (founder, the first chief priest) Roben. The Naijin (the inner sanctum) was built in 1200 and Gejin (part of the main sanctuary outside the Naijin) was built in 1250; together with the Nandai-mon Gate of Todai-ji Temple, they are pieces of the few existing Daibutsu-yo style posthumous works. The principal image, the wooden sitting statue of Roben Sojo (priest) (National Treasure) is a sculpture created in the early Heian Period (ninth century) and is only displayed on December 16, the anniversary of Roben's death.

Sanmai-do (Shigatsu-do) Hall (Important Cultural Property)

The hall enshrines the principal image Senju Kannon-zo (statue of Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara) (Important Cultural Property) and the seated statue of Amida Nyorai (Important Cultural Property).

Oyuya (Big Bath House) (Important Cultural Property)

This is architecture of the Kamakura Period. There is an iron bath tub (Important Cultural Property) remaining inside the building.

Kanjinsho (Office for Raising Funds)

The restorer of Todai-ji Temple, Chogen, made this the headquarters for Kanjin (collecting donations toward the restoration of Todai-ji Temple). It is located in a section west of the Great Buddha Hall surrounded by walls, and includes the Amida-do Hall, Hachimanden and the Kokei-do Hall.

Amida-do Hall

This enshrines the Gogo-shiyui-Amida statue (Important Cultural Property).


Built in 1201, this enshrines the sitting statue of Sogyo Hachiman created by Kaikei (National Treasure). It was originally the sacred object of Tamukeyama Hachimangu Shrine, the place for the Shinto religion of Todai-ji Temple, but after separation of Buddhism and Shintoism in the Meiji Period, it was moved to Todai-ji Temple. It still keeps the original colors and is a representative work of Kaikei. It is only publicly displayed once a year on October 5.

Kokei-do Hall

This enshrines the statue of Kokei Shonin (Important Cultural Property) who contributed to restoration of the Great Buddha Hall in the Edo Period. The statue was made a year after the Shonin's death in 1706.


This is the facility where renunciant monks receive the religious precept (to officially become monks), and was founded by inviting Ganjin-wajo (Jianzhen) in 755. The current building was reconstructed in 1733. Inside, Hoto (treasure pagoda) based on the Chapter of the Hokke-kyo Sutra, The Appearance of A Stupa (Kenhoto-hon), stands in the centre, protected by the Four Devas statues.

Clay standing statues of the Four Devas (National Treasures)

Together with the statues of Nikko and Gakko Bosatsu of the Hokke-do Hall, they are masterpieces of art of the Nara period. They have remarkable emotion in their facial expressions: Jikokuten and Zochoten show their anger and Komokuten and Tamokuten frown in an effort to hide their anger. According to records, the original Kaidan-in statues of the Four Devas were bronze, so it is obvious that the current ones were moved from somewhere else later on.

Tengai-mon Gate (National Treasure)

This is an eight-legged gate in the north-west of the temple precincts, to the west of Shosoin Treasure House. It is one of the few building within the Temple which survived both the fires caused by TAIRA no Shigehira (1180) and the Battle of Miyoshi and Nagamatsu (1567). Although it was repaired in the Kamakura Period, it is basically a building of the Nara Period. Since around 2004, excreta and scratching by wild cats has been an issue.

Historic Sites

The large estate of approximately 12 hectares, including the current precincts of the temple, is designated as the state's historic site as 'The Old Precincts of Todai-ji Temple.'

National Treasures


Kon-do (Great Buddha) Hall

Nandai-mon Gate

Honbo-kyoko (storehouse)

Kaizan-do Hall

Shoro (bell tower)

Hokke-do (Sangatsu-do) Hall

Nigatsu-do Hall

Tengai-mon Gate

(Art craftworks)

Color silk painting of Kusha Mandara (Mandala of the Ahbidharmakosa Tradition)

Color paper painting of Kegon 55-sho Emaki (Scroll of 55 famous places associated with the Avatamsaka Sutra)

Bronze sitting statue of Birushana Buddha (enshrined in Kon-do Hall)

Dry-lacquer standing statue of Amoghapasa (manifestation of Amalokitesvara) (enshrined in the Hokke-do Hall)

Dry-lacquer standing statue of Brahma-Deva and Sakra devanam Indra (enshrined in the Hokke-do Hall)

A pair of dry-lacquer standing statues of Kongo Rikishi (enshrined in the Hokke-do Hall)

Dry-lacquer standing statue of the Four Devas (enshrined in the Hokke-do Hall)

Clay standing statues of Nikko and Gekko Bosatsu (enshrined in the Hokke-do Hall)

Clay standing statue of Shukongoshin (Vajrapani) (enshrined in the Hokke-do Hall)

Clay standing statues of the Four Devas (situated in the Kaidan-do Hall)

Bronze standing statue of Shakyamuni at the birth and ablution basin (deposited in Nara National Museum)

A pair of wooden standing statues of Kongo Rikishi (situated at the Nandai-mon Gate)

Wooden sitting statue of Shunjo Shonin (enshrined in the Shunjo-do Hall)

Wooden sitting statue of Sogyo Hachimanshin by Kaikei (enshrined in the Hachimanden)

Wooden sitting statue of Roben Sojo (enshrined in the Kaizan-do Hall)

Box with flower and bird design

Kondo Hakkaku-Toro (octagonal gilt bronze lantern) (situated in front of the Great Buddha Hall)

Leather with arabesque grape pattern

Bonsho (temple bell)

Kengu-kyo (the Sutra on the Wise and the Foolish) 15 volulmes (467 lines)

Todai-ji Monjo (100 rolled scrolls [with 979 mounted letters]), 8516 single-sheets

A set of ritual objects within the foundations of the altar of the Kon-do Hall

Important Cultural Property


Chumon Gate

East and West Corridors

East and West Rakumon (gates)

Nenbutsu-do Hall

Hokke-do Kyoko (storehouse)

Hokke-do Temizuya (handwash basin)

Hokke-do Kitamon (North) Gate

Nigatsu-do Akaiya (cistern)

Nigatsu-do Sanrojo (the place where priests can retire alone to pray)

Nigatsu-do Busshoya (the place used to prepare ritual food offerings)

Sanmai-do (Shigatsu-do) Hall

Oyuya (Great Bath House)

Kanjinsho (Office for Raising Funds) Kyoko (storehouse)

Stone Gorinto (five-ringed tower) (situated in Kawakami-cho, Nara City)


Color silk painting of Kajo Daishi and color silk image of Joyo Daishi

Color silk painting of Kegon Kai-e Zenchishiki Mandara Zu (The Good Friends of the Avatamsaka Ocean Assembly)

10 color silk paintings of Kegon 55-sho-e (The Fifty-five Visits (of Sudhana) as narrated in the Avatamsaka-sutra)

Color silk painting of Xiangxiang Dashi

Color silk painting of Juichimen Kannon (designated as Important Cultural Property in 2005)

Color silk paintings of Shisho no Mie (images of the Holy Four) (Kencho era and Eiwa era versions)

Color paper painting of Todai-ji Daibutsu Engi (History of the Great Buddha of Todai-ji Temple) by Rinken SHIBA


(Enshrined in the Kon-do Hall) Wooden statue of Nyoirin Kannon (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) & sitting statue of Akasagarbha Bodhisattva by Junkei, Kenkei, Ryokei, Ikei, etc.

(Enshrined at Nandai-mon Gate) A pair of stone Shishi lions

(Enshrined in the Shunjo-do Hall) Wooden standing statue of Amida Nyorai by Kaikei and wooden sitting statue of Aizenmyoo

(Enshrined in the Nenbutsu-do Hall) Wooden sitting statue of Jizo Bosatsu

(Enshrined in the Hokke-do Hall) Clay standing statues of Saraswati and Laksmi, wooden statues of Fudo (the God of Fire) and Two Children; and wooden sitting statue of Jizo Bosatsu

(Enshrined in the Jikido [Dining Hall] of the Sanrojo [the place where the priests pray] in the Nigatsu-do Hall) Wooden sitting statue of Kariteimo (The Japanese name of the Indian deity Hariti)

(Enshrined in the Sanmai-do Hall) Wooden statue of Senju (Thousand Armed) Kannon, wooden sitting statue of Amida Nyorai

(Enshrined in the Kokei-do Hall) Wooden sitting statue of Kokei Shonin

(Enshrined in the Amida-do Hall of Kanjisho [Office for Raising Funds]) Wooden sitting statue of Gogo-shiyui-Amida

(Enshrined in the Senju-do Hall of Kaidan-in) Wooden Senju Kannon and standing statues of the Four Devas in the Zushi (a cupboard-like case with double doors), wooden sitting statue of Jianzhen, wooden sitting statue of Aizenmyoo

(Situated at Chusho-in) Wooden standing statue of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva)

(Situated at the Shingon-in) Wooden standing statue of Jizo Bosatsu, wooden standing statues of the Four Devas (handed down from Shinzen-in)

(Situated at Chisoku-in) Wooden standing statue of Jizo Bosatsu

(Repository) Wooden standing statue of Sho Kannon, wooden standing statue of Juichimen (Eleven-faced) Kannon, 2 wooden Gigaku-men masks, 3 wooden Gyodo-men masks (Haeharai), 2 Wooden Bosatsu-men masks

(Deposited at the Nara National Museum) Wooden sitting statue of Shaka Nyorai (previously from Sashizu-do Hall), wooden sitting statue of Miroku Butsu (previously from Hokke-do Hall), wooden sitting statue of Amida Nyorai (previously from Kanjinsho Office), wooden standing statue of Jini Shinsho (previously from Tennoden [The Guatdian Kings Hall]), wooden standing statue of Jizo Bosatsu by Kaikei (previously from Kokei-do Hall), bronze boat-shaped halo (from the back of the principal image in Nigatsu-do Hall), bronze statue of Cintamari-cakra (manifestation of Avalokitesvara) in semi-lotus position (Bosatsu in semi-lotus position), wooden standing statue of Jikokuten (Dhrtarāstra), wooden standing statue of Tamonten (Deity who hears much), 29 wooden Gigaku-men masks, 1 dry-lacquer Gigaku-men mask, 9 wooden Bugaku-men masks, wooden lion head, wooden sitting statue of Enmao (the lord of death) and wooden sitting statue of Taizanfukun (Chinese deity of Mt. Taizan)

(Deposited at the Tokyo National Museum) wooden standing statue of Shomen (Blue-faced) Kongo


2 gilt bronze bowls

Kujaku Monkei (Buddhist ritual gong with peacock relief)

Shoko (small gong used in gagaku), (Chosho 3rd [1134] inscripted)

Shoko, (Kenkyu 9th [1198] inscripted)

Iron hanging lantern (situated in the Hokke-do Hall)

Iron bath tub (situated in the Oyuya Bath House)

Iron lock with a key

Dotsukasa Rei (A ritual article)

4 Copper Kozuishaku (long-handled water ladles)

2 copper water jars

Copper bowl with a gilt bronze tray

Waniguchi (medal shaped steel drum)

Bonsho (temple bell) (Shingon-in)

Bonsho (temple bell) (for the dining hall of the Nigatsu-do Hall)

Unpo-sokin-kyobitsu (gold-inlaid chest box)

3 red-lacquered fusatsu tubs (basin used to catch water while washing hands with water from a jar)

2 black-lacquered hand drums

Black-lacquered table with mother-of-pearl inlay

Wooden decorated hand drum

Wooden decorated hand drum

Nyoi (priest's staff) engraved with five lions (Attributed to Shobo [Master Rigen])

Tortoiseshell nyoi (priest's staff)

11 Nigatsu-do Rengyo Shuban (trays)

2 wooden black-lacquered oil pots

Wooden West Dai-mon Gate imperial scroll

Stone lantern (situated in front of Hokke-do Hall)

(Calligraphy and books)

Kegon-kyo (Avatamsaka Sutra): Vols. 1, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 11

Ganmon Shu (collection of Shinto or Buddhist prayers)

Kokuzo-kyo (Kokuzo Sutra): Vols. 1 to 8

Kon Komyo Saisho-O kyo Chushaku (Commentary on the Golden Light of the Most Victorious Kings Sutra): Vols. 5 and 9

Kongo Hannya-kyo Sanjutsu (The Script of the Kongo Hannya-kyo Sutra), Volume 1 (with white dots for punctuation marks)

6 kinds of Kosoden (biography of high ranking monks) written by Sosho

Korai-ban Kegon-kyo Zuisho Engi Sho (The Subcommentary of Korean Kegon-kyo Sutra)

Konshi Kinji Kegon-kyo (Kegon-kyo Sutra in gold letters on dark-blue paper)

Konshi Ginji Kegon-kyo Zankan (remaining part of Kegon-kyo Sutra in silver letters on dark-blue Paper) (also called Nigatsu-do Yakegyo)

Saiji Kon Komyo Saisho-O kyo (Golden Light of the Most Victorious Kings Sutra in small writings): Vols. 6 to 10

Zoku Kegon-kyo Ryakushu Kanteiki (The Sequel of Abridged Subcommentary to Kegon-kyo Sutra) Vols. 2, 9 - 1 & 2 and 13 - 1 & 2

Daiitoku Daranikyo (Great Majesty Daranikyo Sutra): Vols. 1-10

Daihatsu Nehangyo (The Nirvana Sutra): Vols. 1-40

Daibibasharon (Mahavibhasa Sastra): Vol. 23

Daihoto Daishu Bosatsu Nenbutsu-zanmaikyo (Sutra): Vols. 1-10

100 Honen Yusho (100 Secret Excerpts of Honen) Vol. 1-2 (with red dots for punctuation marks)

Hokke Toryaku (Collection of the Commentaries of Hokke-kyo) : Volume 1

Mishasokukonma Bon

Yugashijiron (Discourse on the Stages of Concentration Practice): Vols. 12, 13, 14 & 17


Ensho Shonin Gyojo-ki (Book on Ensho Shonin) by Byonen

Todai-ji Gyonen Senjutsu Shoshorui Jihitsu-bon (Todai-ji Selection of Commentaries on Buddhist Scriptures etc. by Gyonen) (9 types)

Todai-ji Sosho-hitsu Shogyo narabini Shoroku Bon (Todai-ji Collection of Buddha's Teaching and Excerpts written by Sosho) (24 types)

Todai-ji Yoroku (The Digest Record of Todai-ji Temple)

Todai-ji Yoroku Zokuroku (The Second Edition of 'Todai-ji Yoroku' [The Digest Record of Todai-ji Temple])

Kengokyo Shihon Bokusho Makimono (Scroll of Kengokyo Sutra with ink on paper)*

* Although 'Kengokyo Shihon Bokusho Makimono' was designated as an Important Cultural Property in 1897 (formerly a National Treasure), its whereabouts are unknown. Not even a photograph of this exists.

(Ancient documents and historical materials)

Certificate of the present of Chinese calligraphy ink brushes written by Eisai: dated July 24, 1207

Report from the rice field inspector of Echizen Province (Nos. 2 and 3 on Kuwabara-no-sho estate)

Letter of temple solicitation written by Chogen Shonin in 1205

Record of Kaka (confession) fees and materials of Amida-do Hall

Order of fields (of rice and other crops) from Amida-ji Temple of the Suo Province dated December 1200, with the Chogen's stamp

Imperial Decree dated October 23, 805 written by Mamichi SUGAN, Daijokan (Grand Council of State) Decree dated April 2, 805

Suggested words of prayer for memorial services for a priest before his death, written by Jokei, May 29, 1198

Todai-ji Daikanjin-so Gyoyu Jihitsu Shojo (A handwritten letter from Todai-ji Chief Kanjin [fundraising] Priest Gyoyu to Nenyo Goshi [secretary monk who during this time took responsibility for running the actual affairs of the various central government offices]) dated September 16

Todai-ji Nuhi Genrai Cho (The Records of the Characteristics of the New Todai-ji Slaves)

Nigatsu-do Shini-e Kiroku Monjo (The Records of Sacred Water-drawing Festival of Nigatsu-do Hall)

Todai-ji Kaidan-in Sashizu (Instruction of Todai-ji Kaidan-in)

Annual Events

January 1: Joya no Kane (bell ringing out the old year) (Shoro Bell Tower).

January 1 - 3: The first three days of the new year (Great Buddha Hall and Nigatsu-do Hall).

January 7: Shusho-e (New Year's Service) (Great Buddha Hall): Keka Hoyo (the Buddhist memorial service for keka [a confession of one's sins]) is held.

February 3: Setsubun (Bean-Throwing Festival) and Hoshi Matsuri (Star Festival) (Nigatsu-do Hall): 'Gengu' and a bean-scattering ceremony celebrating the coming of spring are held during the day. Gengu' is a ceremony during which old talismans and good-luck charms are burned. The bean-scattering ceremony is performed from the stage of the Nigatsu-do Hall. Hoshi Matsuri' is a Buddhist mass praying to the stars to 'repel evil and bring happiness'.
In the evening, the Manto light is lit in the main hall of Nigatsu-do and mass is held by putting up the 'Hoshi (Star) Mandala.'

March 1 - 14: Shuni-e (Omizu-tori or Sacred Water-drawing Festival) (Nigatsu-do Hall): see Shuni-e for reference. It is one of the main rites and festivals of Todai-ji Temple, started by Jicchu Kasho in the Nara Period. 11 Buddhist monks called Rengyo-shu religiously purify themselves by abstaining from eating meat and hold a training camp, confess their sins to the principal image of Nigatsu-do Hall Juichimen Kannon-zo (Eleven-faced Kannon) and pray for the security of the state and affluent life for the nation. In the inner sanctum located in the hall, they read family registers of deaths and events called Hashiri-no-gyoho (the running ritual) and Dattan-no-gyoho (the Dattan ritual). Otaimatsu', the ceremony of swinging around big pine torches at Nigatsu-do Hall, is held every evening from March 1 onward. Omizutori' (Water-Drawing Festival), collecting water from Wakasa-i (Wakasa Well) to take it to the principal image is conducted at midnight on March 12 (before dawn of the 13th). Shuni-e of 2007 was the 1255th ceremony.

March 15: Nehan-ko: A Buddhist memorial service for Buddha's entering into Nirvana is held.

April 8: Bussho-e (Great Buddha Hall): celebration of Buddha's birthday.

April 24: Kegon Chishiki Ku (Kaizan-do Hall): Buddhist monks in the area gather at Kaizan-do Hall, chant Kegon-kyo Sutra and carry out a mass by putting the Kegon 55 Seizen Chishiki (Good Deeds and Knowledge) Mandala in front of Zushi where the statue of Roben Sojo is sitting.

May 2 & 3: Shomu Tenno Sai: The Buddhist memorial service for the Emperor Shomu.

May 2: Rongi Hoyo (Debate Memorial Service) at Tenno-den (the Guardian Kings Hall). A group of monks and chigo (beautifully dressed children) parade from the city center to the Great Buddha Hall. After their arrival, the Emperor Shomu's memorial service called Kyosan Hoyo is held. A Bugaku (Japanese court dance and music) is also offered.

May 3: Misasagi Sai (Prayer at the Great Buddha Hall and Sabo Goryo [Imperial mausoleum]): Buddhist monks of the area leave the Great Buddha Hall and visit Sabo Goryo, dedicated to Emperor Shomu, to pray. Upon returning, there is a ceremony of Kencha (tea offering to Gods in shrines) at the Great Buddha Hall.

July 5: Shunjo Ki (Shunjo-do Hall): A memorial service for Chogen SHUNJOBO who revived the Great Buddha in the Kamakura Period.
After the service (which finishes around 11am), the sitting statue of Chogen-shonin (National Treasure), the image which is normally withheld from public view, is put on public display until 4pm

July 28: Gejo-e (Great Buddha Hall): A Buddhist memorial service and Chinowa-kuguri (passing through a hoop made of kaya grass [plants of the sedge family]) are held.

August 7: Great Buddha Ominugui (Great Buddha Hall): Approximately 200 Buddhist monks and others purify their bodies at the bath house of Nigatsu-do Hall from early morning and gather at the Great Buddha Hall in white clothing and straw sandals; after taking out the Great Buddha's soul, they chant together and clean his body.

August 9: Oyoku (Nigatsu-do Hall): Visiting the Hall for a prayer on this day is believed to give people the same virtue as 46,000 visits.

August 15: Manto Kuyo-e (Great Buddha Hall): On the evening of August 15, the last day of the Urabon Festival (a Festival of the Dead), many Toro lanterns are offered to Great Buddha. This began in 1985, and people who cannot return home can visit there and pray for their ancestors at festival time.

September 17: Jushichiya (The Seventeenth Night) (Nigatsu-do Hall): A festival day of Kanzeon Bosatsu (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) and Bon Festival Dance is held in the open space in front of Nigatsu-do Hall as well as a memorial service.

October 5: Tegai-e: The rite and festival of Temukeyama Hachiman-jinja, the Shinto shrine of Todai-ji Temple.

October 15: Great Buddha Autumn Festival (Great Buddha Hall).

December 14: Butsumyo-e (Nigatsu-do Hall): 3000 images of Buddha are put up and worshiped by calling their names to remove sins for the year.

December 16: Roben Ki (Kaizan-Do Hall): A memorial service for Roben Sojo, the founder of Todai-ji Temple. The sitting statue of Roben Sojo, an image normally withheld from public view, and the standing statue of Shukongoshin (Vajrapani) are publicly displayed.

December 16: Hogo-e (Hokke-do Hall): An oral examination called Kengaku Ryugi is held. Those who are studying Kegon (Huayan) and Three Shastras (Three Treatises) of the Temple to become a Gakuso (scholar monk) are required to pass the examination. It has now become a formality.

December 18: Kozui Sagewatashi: The water collected from Wakasa-i (Wakasa Well) at Omizutori (Water-Drawing Festival) is distributed to the believers.

Since the Year 2002, 'The Great Buddha Symposium' is held in December every year. The purpose of this is to analyze and review various issues in regard to Buddhism with a strict academic approach and a wider vision to clarify their significance.

Social Work
Todai-ji is the temple where the Empress Komyo established Hiden-in and Seyaku-in which became initiatives of social work; so there is much social work done even today.

Todai-ji Medical and Educational Center

Facilities include 'Todai-ji Seishi En,' the center for orthopedically-impaired children, 'Todai-ji Komyo En,' the center for severe mentally and physically handicapped children, and 'Hananoakari,' the day-care center for severe mentally and physically handicapped children; they provides special education for children with disabilities. It also provides an out-patient clinic for orthopedics etc., and in-hospital surgery and rehabilitation services.

Todai-ji Gakuen

This provides a unified lower and upper secondary school education. The first principal was Kosho SHIMIZU, who was also a Betto (administrator of the Temple). It used to be on the west of Nandai-mon Gate inside the precincts of the Temple, but it was moved to Misasagi-cho Town. There is a kindergarten (three-year education) on the west of the Great Buddha Hall.

Todai-ji Library

A collection of mainly Buddhism related books, Buddhist art, old books, ancient documents and archaeological materials are kept and the general public have access to these.

How to Get There

8 minutes from JR West Nara Station and 4 minutes from Kintetsu Nara Station of Kinki Nippon Railway Company by the Nara Kotsu City Loop Bus Sotomawari (outer loop); get off at "Daibutsuden Kasuga-taisha mae," 5 minutes walk. Alternatively, you can walk from either train station.

[Original Japanese]