Petit Futé's opinion on TŌDAI-JI
Located in the north of Nara Park, it is one of the most famous temple complexes in Nara and Japan. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is so vast and there is so much to see that you can easily spend the afternoon there. The Tōdai-ji was built in the 8th century by order of the emperor Shōmu. After a series of natural disasters, the emperor decided that all provinces would be equipped with a Buddhist temple and that the Tōdai-ji would be built to be at the head of these temples. The emperor's political project was to create a centralized state based on Buddhism. Construction took more than 20 years, and the temple opened in 752. It held immense power during the Nara period, but this declined when the capital was moved to Kyoto in 794. Destroyed or burned several times, notably by the Taira clan in 1180, and rebuilt in 1195 by the monk Chōgen Sunjōbō, it was burned again in 1567 and rebuilt by Tsunayoshi Tokugawa in 1708. It was last restored in 1980. Originally, the Tōdai-ji had, in addition to the present buildings, 2 large pagodas with 10 and 7 floors. Tōdaiji houses the Daibutsuden, the Buddha's pavilion, and other pavilions scattered throughout a vast park.
Daibutsu-den or Kon-dō. In front of the building, a stone pillar is surmounted by an octagonal lantern dating from the 8th century. The Daibutsu-den, which houses the gigantic bronze statue of Buddha, is 57 m long and 50 m wide. Its height is 47 m. It is one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, yet it is only a modest restitution of the original building. It consists of a double roof, supported by pillars knotted together by a metal ring to support the gigantic weight (450 tons). The building was constructed in four years, from 747 to 751, at the same time as the statue. The statue itself represents Vairocana Buddha, or Resplendent Buddha. It is 15 m high and weighs 450 tons. It is the largest statue of this Buddha in the world. It was cast in 749 using a special technique called garakuri. It was first damaged by an earthquake in 885, then in successive fires in 1180 and 1567, but the statue was always repaired. Nevertheless, the ravalements made it lose its homogeneity. Thanks to X-rays, a tooth, beads, mirrors and swords were discovered in the knee of the statue. They are believed to be relics of the emperor Shōmu.
Nandai-mon. South Gate. It was built in 1199 and is 29 m high and 11 m deep. The building is 5 ken (1 ken is 182 centimeters) long and 2 ken deep. This gate, built in the Tenjiku-yō style, houses two large statues of Nio executed by Unkei and Kaikei. One has its mouth closed and the other has its mouth open. There is an impression of powerful anger and determination. Behind the two statues are two lion dogs (koma-inu) executed by the Chinese sculptor Chinnakei in 1196.
Chū-mon is connected to the Daibutsu-den by corridors. Near the Mirror Pond, one will notice the locations of the two pagodas, respectively seven and ten storeys high.
Nigatsu-dō. Founded in 752, it was rebuilt in 1669. This room houses two statues of Kannon, one of which is said to have been found in the bay of Ōsaka by the monk Jichū. This room is not open to the public.
Hokke-dō.This room was built by Ryōben, a member of the Kegon-Shū sect in 733. There are sculptures dating from the 8th to 14th century.
Shōrō ( or belfry). Built in 1239, it contains the largest casteless bell in Japan.
Kaisan-dō (Founder's Hall). Built in 1019 and rebuilt in 1250 in the Tenjiku style-yō. It contains a statue from Ryōben which is usually only visible on December 16.
Kaidan-in (Hall of Ordinations). It contains the clay Shi-Tennō, guardians of the Four Directions and dating from the time Tempyō, during the reign of the emperor Shōmu, from 729 to 749.
Shōsō-in (imperial treasure). Located north of Daibutsu-den, the building was constructed in 760 in the azekura-zukuri (kura: granaries) style. The building is supported on forty pillars 2.50 meters high. The roof is Yosemune style and covered with tiles. Today, the treasure is kept in the National Museum of Nara. It is exhibited every year from the end of October to the beginning of November.
Tegai-mon. It is one of the oldest buildings of the temple as it dates back to 752. According to the legend, walking in front of this building is supposed to cure diseases. The Shunjō-dō has a statue of Chōgen Sunjōbō that can only be seen on July 5th.
Kasuga Taisha. This shrine is located in the southeast of Todai-ji. It was founded in 709 by Fuhitō Fujiwara and dedicated to the deity Takemikazuchi of Kashima Shrine Jingū. The three thousand bronze and stone lanterns that adorn the park are illuminated only twice a year, at setsubun (February) and o-bon (August). The shrine included many buildings, not all of which escaped the terrible fires. Nevertheless, one can still notice the Nandai-mon gate (1179) which opens onto the first courtyard. Then, after the gate Chū mon, one reaches another courtyard, where four shrines in the Nagare-zukuri style (asymmetrical roofs) rise. The shrine is known for its theatrical and musical arts.
Information on TŌDAI-JI
7 days a week. From 8am to 5pm (variable depending on the season). Entrance to the Daibutsuen ¥600.
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