Known as the Great Eastern Temple, Todaiji is one of the most gorgeous architecture of Buddhism in Nara and the whole Japan. All visitors coming to Japan with the heart turning to Buddhism, they are all led to Todaiji as some sort of inevitable. The soul of Buddhism does not hide in the legend or history but lies right in the size of the temple’s structure. Todaiji was designated as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site and a part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara listing.
Todaiji Temple was originally called Kinshoji which was built in 728 to pray happiness and peace for the son of Emperor Shomu. It is necessary to emphasize that Emperor Shomu had a extremely strong belief in Buddha that he trusted in the Buddha’s power to protect his citizens from natural disasters and epidemics. This belief led to one of the most significant and influent edict in field of the Buddhism in particular and the national religious in general that ordered to construct a wide system of monasteries across the country in which each province got its own temple. As a result, Kinshoji was turned into the head of this system of local temples as a Great Buddha Image along with the relocation of the capital to Nara. The construction of the Great Buddha Hall started in 743 and took 6 years to complete with a lavish ceremony of consecration in 752. To have the peaceful appearance like today, the Great Buddha experienced many upheavals, such as the earthquake in 855 or the fire in 1180 and in 1567. It is believed that after each event, the Great Buddha was changed its look that lost its original size. The long standing history left inside Todaiji a certain amount of valuable cultural treasures and traditional Buddhist rituals and made it a center for studying Buddhist doctrine.
The gorgeousness is shown out from the main gate, known as the largest one in Japan. The Great South Gate dating to the Kamakura period was designed with Daibutsu style, characterized by large double hip and gable roof spreading about 20 meters to both sides by 5 arches wide and 2 arches deep, opening 3 pairs of doors by eighteen wooden pillars. Going along the main entrance through the Great Southern Gate with two impressive guardian statues, you can see the main building- the Daibutsuden which is known to be the largest wooden building in the world. Inside this building, there is Japan's largest bronze statue of Buddha Daibutsu with 250 ton weight and 15 meter height. This is Vairocana Buddha illuminating the light of knowledge and compassion sent out from the kind face and posture on the lotus petals. An other attraction is a pillar with a hole through the bottom. Visitors are advised to squeeze through this hole to be granted enlightenment in Heaven, as Japanese have believed.
Covered most of northern Nara Park, Todaiji's ground also includes a number of smaller buildings like Hokkedo, the oldest structure of Todaiji housing the statues from Nara period, Nigatsudo as the place to held the Shunie ceremony during the second month of the lunar calendar from which the nice views of the city can easily taken from the balcony and Kaidanin which is famous for Four Divine Kings. You can also find inside the temple’s precinct one of the Three famous Bells of Japan at a bell tower with about 26 ton weight. A new addition to the temple is the Todaiji Museum opened to the public in 2011 with various exhibitions to show off the treasures of Todaiji Temple.
Walking around the park, you can enjoy a very calming atmostphere even though it is very crowded. Don’t forget to bring some crackers because you will eventually meet a deer there. Specially, if you like, with 1000 yen, you can donate a tile with your wishes on for restoration. On your way out, you should stop and try some Daibutsu custard in the shopping complex right next to the entrance of Todaiji.
Daibutsuden Hall, Hokkedo Hall and Kaidanin Hall: from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (the last entry is at 4:00 pm) and there is no closing day.
The opening time will be extended in some month:
In March: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
In October: 7:30 am to 5:00 pm
From April to September: 7:30 am to 5:30 pm
Todaiji museum: from 9:30 am to closing time of Daibutsuden Hall. The museum maybe temporarily closed between exhibitions.
Adult: 800 yen
Primary school student: 400 yen
Hokkedo Hall, Kaidanin Hall and Todaiji museum:
Adult: 500 yen
Primary school student: 300 yen
By bus: you can get there by bus No. 1, 2, 6, 52, 70, 88, 89, 97, 98 or 133 from JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station then get off at Todaiji Daibutsuden and take a 10 minute walk to the main building.
Or else you can take a 30 minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station or 45 minute walk from JR Nara Station to the temple.