Anyone visiting the southern area of the Japanese main island of Honshū on a trip or study trip should not miss a visit to the city of Nara and its temples, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, if possible. Two of their best-preserved temples are located on the grounds of the park known as Nara Koen, which covers an area of about 500 hectares in the center of the former capital of Japan.
Two of the most important temples in Nara
At the western end of the Nara Koen is the Kōfuku-ji, a Buddhist temple that can look back on an approximately 1,300-year-old past. The complex is dominated by a five-story pagoda, which is considered the second largest of its kind in Japan. The three golden main halls of the Kōfuku-ji are considered national treasures of Japan and protect important sculptures and altars as well as shrines and relics inside.
In the northern area of the park is the Tōdai-ji temple. The visitor arrives at it through a two-story gate. The main hall, which was rebuilt about 300 years ago, is made entirely of wood and, with its footprint of 57 x 50.5 meters and a height of 48.7 meters, is the largest wooden building in the world Giant Buddha another superlative object. The statue is considered to be the largest Buddha statue in the world. Cast as early as 752, it consists of 437 tons of bronze and 130 kilograms of gold.
Accompanied by sika deer to the Kasuga-Taisha shrine
While the cherry blossom, which takes over the park, attracts numerous visitors to Nara Park in spring, the more than 1,200 wild sika deer that live in the park take on the role of an additional visitor magnet before and after. Your antlers are cut by a Shinto priest every year in October during festive ceremonies. The deer often accompany visitors to the Kasuga-Jingu shrine on the eastern edge of the park, which is surrounded by over 1,000 stone and metal lanterns in the middle of the paths and buildings of the shrine complex, which is considered a Shinto shrine.
Nakasendo remote path
When, after long civil wars at the beginning of the 17th century, the shoguns, military leaders from the samurai aristocracy, gained control of Japan, they had five highways built across the country in order to maintain their power. Two of these overland routes connected what was then Edo, now known as Tokyo, with the then capital Kyoto. While the “Tokaido” ran near the coast, the 534-kilometer “Nakasendo” led through the central mountains of the country.
The Nakasendo in the Edo period
Originally, the long-distance routes were only allowed to be used by shoguns and daimyos, the provincial princes and their families and followers. Originally they served primarily as a communication network for the ruling families and to stabilize the country. Later, however, the merchants also recognized the advantages of these guarded connections and pretended to use them for pilgrimages, which, however, also served trade. Along the Nakasendo, as on the other four highways, a large number of stations were built, which were equipped with inns serving as accommodation, as well as post and customs stations. Over the years, their increasing importance for trade resulted in numerous villages and towns.
The nakasendo is revitalized
Today most sections of the Nakasendo no longer exist in their historical form, but the course of numerous modern roads follows its original route through the central part of Japan. Some sections of the old long-distance trade route were restored in the past decades and can still be walked on trips and study trips through Japan. A paved section of the Nakasendo runs through the Kiso Valley and connects the towns of Tsumago and Magome. Tsumago itself shows itself in restored historical garb with wooden houses and without any visible evidence of modern times. Every November 23rd, the site hosts a parade designed by travelers from the Edo period.
At the intersection of Nakasendo and Tokaido in Kusatsu, a museum offers insightful insights into life in the Edo period. In addition, a completely restored “Honjin”, an accommodation built in 1635 for the princes on Nakasendo with 39 comfortably furnished rooms, can be visited.
Japan’s sacred mountain
In the middle of the Japanese main island of Honshu, on the border between the prefectures Yamanashi and Shizuoka, lies Japan’s most famous mountain, Mount Fuji. At around 3800m, it is the highest mountain in the country and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013. The name of the mountain is made up of the Japanese words for ‘rich’ and ‘warrior’ and is often supplemented by the additional syllable ‘san’ (German: mountain).
Fuji-san, part of Japan
According to topschoolsintheusa, Mount Fuji is firmly anchored in the culture of Japan. The volcanic mountain can be found on a pictorial representation as early as the 11th century. Nowadays there are countless paintings, songs and poems in which the land of the rising sun captures its admiration and fascination for Mount Fuji-san. Every year thousands of pilgrims visit the mountain and pray in the many temples as they did hundreds of years ago.