Gangoji Temple

Description: 

Out of the big shadow of great religious sites of the ancient Nara known as Todaiji temple, Kasuga Taisha shrine or Kofukuji temple, you miss in the tranquil atmosphere of the nostalgic Naramachi town and feel that all the narrow alleys of the town lead to Gangoji temple. The temple is the pride of Naramachi district in particular and Nara city in general as one of the most ancient temples in Japan, being present at the seven great temples of Heian time consisting of Todaiji, Kofukuji, Daianji, Horyuji, Saidaiji, Yakushiji and Goganji itself.

gangoji_temple_welcomekansai

Source: Blog Yahoo

Compared with the others in the Seven, Goganji is a little more modest in both scale and architecture, just like a neighborhood temple drawing a religious brushwork into the peaceful and ancient picture of Naramachi. However, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Goganji holds such a glorious religious history kept inside remaining part of the whole structure. The legend began in 588 when the Emperor of that time Sushun decided to constructed a temple in Asuka. This time was Asuka time, also the time of early Buddhism infiltrating into Japan. The construction of Gangoji marked the very first birth of a Buddhist temple in the area. At the beginning time, the temple was called Hokoji, also known as Asuka temple.

gangoji_temple_welcomekansai

Source: Blog Yahoo

One more special thing that Goganji temple had a close tie with Korea at that time. Gyogi-buki, a Korean style was applied in making special round tiles as well as paintings of the temple by the help of carpenters, metal workers and potters sent from Korea by the King of Paekche. Right after the construction, Goganji immediately became the center of Japanese Buddhism along with the destination of foreign cultures imported from the main land China introduced into Japan. The temple changed Asuka area into the cradle of Buddhism during Asuka period, becoming the location of two among six Buddhist schools across Japan and what called Asuka culture spread out over the country.

gangoji_temple_welcomekansai

Source: Blog Yahoo

In the early Heian, as one of the seven great temples, Goganji initiated a number of important Buddhist festivals such as O-bon to memorize the dead and Kanbutsu-e celebrating the birth of Buddha. In 710, the capital moved to Nara in 710, Hokoji was also moved and renamed Gangoji. Destroyed by fire in 1451, the temple had a difficult time to recover before rebuilt in the middle of 19th century. Basic structures of Goganji nowadays includes Higashi-daito-ato, the remains of the Eastern Five Storied Tower with rare Buddhist statues from India including three from ancient Gandhara surrounding. There is also the remain of the Western Small Pagoda Hall called Nishi-shotoin-ato and a remain of the Southeast contemplation and a piece of lecture Halls called Gangoji-Gokuraku-bo keidai which were designated as a historical remain. One important building of Goganji is the Hall of pure land Gokuraku -do, beside the Contemplation Hall Zen Shitu, the house for Zen training. Especially, there is a miniature Five-Storied pagoda called Goju-shoto placed inside the Treasure House.

Open time: 

From 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Last admission at 4:30 am

Admission: 
-Adult: 400 yen
-High school and Junior high school student: 300 yen
-Primary school student and younger: 100 yen
How to access: 
-Take a 20 minute walk from JR Nara Station or a 15 minute walk south of Kintetsu Nara Station
-Take bus No. 50, 51, 53, 82 or 92 from JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station and get off at Fukuchiin-cho stop and take a short walk.