Japanese-Temple icon

Kōfuku-ji 興福寺 Kōfuku-ji

Kōfuku-ji (興福寺, Kōfuku-ji) is a Buddhist temple in the city of Nara, in Nara prefecture, Japan. The temple is the headquarters of the Hossō school in Japan.


Kōfuku-ji has its origin as a temple that was established in 669 by Kagami-no-Ōkimi (鏡大君), the wife of Fujiwara no Kamatari, wishing for her husbands’s recovery from illness. Its original site was in Yamashina, Yamashiro Province (present-day Kyoto). In 672, the temple was moved to Fujiwara-kyō, the first artificially planned capital in Japan, then again in 710, moved to its current place, on the east side of the newly constructed capital, Heijō-kyō, today's Nara.

Kōfuku-ji was the Fujiwara's tutelary temple, and enjoyed as much prosperty, and as long as the family did. The temple was not only an important center for the Buddhist religion, but also retained influence over the imperial government, and even by "aggressive means" in some cases[1]. When many of the Nanto Shichi Daiji such as Tōdai-ji -declined after the move of capital to Heian-kyō (Kyoto), Kōfuku-ji kept its significance because of its connection to the Fujiwara. The temple was damaged and destroyed by civil wars and fires many times, and was rebuilt as many times as well, although finally some of the important buildings, such as two of the three golden halls, the nandaimon, chūmon and the corridor were never reconstructed and are missing today.

Architectures and treasures

Kōfuku-ji, along with several Buddhist temples, Kasuga Taisha, the remains of the Heijō Palace, and other sites in Nara, received the distinction of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name: 'Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.'

The followings are some of the temple's buildings and treasures of note.


* Tōkondo (East Golden Hall) (東金堂?), the remaining of the three golden halls (National Treasure)
* Five-storied pagoda (五重塔, gojyū-no-tō?) (National Treasure)
* Three-storied pagoda (三重塔, sanjyū-no-tō?) (National Treasure)
* Hoku'endō (North octagonal hall) (北円堂?) (National Treasure)
* Nan'endō (South octagonal hall) (南円堂?), Site No.9 of Saigoku 33 Pilgrimage (Important Cultural Property)


* (Statue) The Devas of the Eight Classes, including dry-lacquer Ashura (National Treasure)
* (Statue) The Ten Great Disciples (National Treasure)
* (Statue) Thousand-armed Kannon (National Treasure)
* (Statue) Fukūkansaku Kannon (不空羂索観音?) attributed to Kōkei, is housed in Nan'endō (National Treasure)

Nara 奈良市

Country: Japan
Region: Kansai
Prefecture: Nara Prefecture
Area: Total: 276.84 km2 (106.9 sq mi)
Population (January 1, 2010) Total: 368,636 Density: 1,331.58/km2 (3,448.8/sq mi)
Time zone: Japan Standard Time (UTC+9)
City symbols
Tree: Quercus gilva
Flower: Nara yaezakura
Bird: Japanese Bush Warbler
Coordinates: 34°41′N 135°48′E / 34.683°N 135.8°E / 34.683; 135.8

Nara (奈良市, Nara-shi) is the capital city of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, directly bordering Kyoto Prefecture. Eight temples, shrines and ruins in Nara, specifically Tōdai-ji, Saidai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, Kasuga Shrine, Gangō-ji, Yakushi-ji, Tōshōdai-ji and the Heijō Palace remains, together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest, collectively form "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara", a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784, lending its name to the Nara period. The original city, Heijō-kyō, was modelled after the capital of Tang Dynasty China, Chang'an (present-day Xi'an). According to the ancient Japanese book Nihon Shoki, the name "Nara" derived from the Japanese word narashita meaning "made flat".

The temples of Nara remained powerful even beyond the move of the political capital to Heian-kyō in 794, thus giving Nara a synonym of Nanto (南都, "The Southern Capital").

In 2010, Nara celebrated the 1,300th anniversary of its ascension as Japan's imperial capital.

Modern Nara

In the modern age, as the seat of the prefectural government, Nara has developed into a local center of commerce and government. The city was officially incorporated on February 1, 1898.


The city of Nara lies in the north end of Nara Prefecture, directly bordering itself to Kyoto Prefecture in its north side. The city is 22.22 km from North to South, and 33.51 km from East to West. As a result of the latest merger, effective April 1, 2005, that combined the villages of Tsuge and Tsukigase with the city of Nara, the city now borders Mie Prefecture directly to its east. The total area is 276.84 km².

The downtown of Nara is on the east side of the ancient Heijō Palace site, occupying the northern part of what was called the Gekyō (外京), literally the outer capital area. Many of the public offices (e.g. the Municipal office, the Nara Prefectural government, the Nara Police headquarters, etc.) are located on Nijō-ōji (二条大路), while Nara branch offices of major nationwide banks are on Sanjō-ōji (三条大路), with both avenues running east-west.

The highest point in the city is at the peak of Kaigahira-yama, alt.822 m (2,696.85 ft) (Tsugehayama-cho district), and the lowest is in Ikeda-cho district, with an altitude of 56.4 m (185.04 ft)


Nara temperature range

The climate of Nara Prefecture is generally temperate, although there are notable differences between the north-western basin area and the rest of the prefecture which is more mountainous.

The basin area climate has an inland characteristic, as represented in the higher daily temperature variance, and the difference between summer and winter temperatures. Winter temperatures average approximately 3 to 5 °C, and from 25 to 28 °C (82 °F) in the summer with highest readings reaching close to 35 °C (95 °F). There has not been a single year over the last decade (since 1990, up to 2007) with more than 10 days of snowfall recorded by Nara Local Meteorological Observatory.

The climate in the rest of the prefecture is that of higher elevations especially in the south, with −5 °C (23 °F) being the extreme minimum in winter. Heavy rainfall is often observed in summer. The annual accumulated rainfall ranges as much as 3,000 to 5,000 mm (118.11 to 196.85 in), which is among the heaviest in Japan.

Spring and fall temperatures are temperate and comfortable. The mountainous region of Yoshino has been long popular for viewing cherry blossoms in the spring. In autumn, the southern mountains are also a popular destination for viewing fall foliage.


As of 2005, the city has an estimated population of 373,189 and a population density of 1,348 persons per km². There were 147,966 households residing in Nara. The highest concentraton of both households and population, respectively about 46,000 and 125,000, is found along the newer bedtown districts, along the Kintetsu line connecting to Osaka. There were about 3,000 registered foreigners in the city, of which Koreans and Chinese are the two largest groups with about 1,200 and 800 people respectively. There were slightly fewer than 1,200 deer in Nara in 2005


  1. * Buddhist temples: Tōdai-ji, including Nigatsu-dō, Saidai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, Gangō-ji, Yakushi-ji, Tōshōdai-ji
  2. * Shinto shrines: Kasuga Shrine
  3. * Former imperial palace: Heijō Palace
  4. * Others: Kasugayama Primeval Forest, Naramachi, Nara National Museum, Nara Park, Nara Hotel, Isuien Garden, Sarusawa Pond, Wakakusa-yama, Yagyū

Deer in Nara

According to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country.

Tame deer roam through the town, especially in Nara Park. Snack vendors sell "shika sembei" (deer biscuits) to visitors so they can enjoy feeding the deer. Some of the deer have learned to bow in response to tourists' bows. They nudge, jostle, and even bite for food.


As of 2005, there are 16 high schools and 6 universities located in the city of Nara.


Nara Women's University is one of only two national women's universities in Japan.

Primary and secondary education

Public schools
Public elementary and junior high schools are operated by the city of Nara.
Public high schools are operated by the Nara Prefecture.

Private schools

Private high schools in Nara include the Todaiji Gakuen, a private school founded by the temple in 1926.

Nara Prefecture (奈良県) Nara-ken

Nara Prefecture (奈良県, Nara-ken) is a prefecture in the Kansai region on Honshū Island, Japan. The capital is the city of Nara.


The present-day Nara Prefecture was created in 1887, making it independent of Osaka Prefecture.

Historically, Nara Prefecture was also known as Yamato-no-kuni or Yamato Province.

Up to Nara Period

It is certain that a political force established at the foot of Mount Miwa in the east of Nara Basin, seeking unification of most parts in Japan from the third century until the fourth century, though the process was not well documented. At the dawn of history, Yamato was clearly the political center of Japan.

Ancient capitals of Japan were built on the land of Nara, namely Asuka-kyō, Fujiwara-kyō (694–710) and Heijō-kyō (most of 710–784). The capital cities of Fujiwara and Heijō are believed to have been modeled after Chinese capitals at the time, incorporating grid layout patterns. The royal court also established relations with Sui and then Tang Dynasty China and sent students to the Middle Kingdom to learn high civilization. By 7th century, Nara accepted the many immigrants including refugees of Baekje who had escaped from war disturbances of the southern part of the Korean peninsula. The first high civilization with royal patronage of Buddhism flourished in today's Nara city (710–784 AD).

Nara in the Heian period


In 784, Emperor Kammu decided to relocate the capital to Nagaoka-kyō in Yamashiro Province, followed by another move in 794 to Heian-kyō, marking the start of the Heian period. The temples in Nara remained powerful beyond the move of political capital, thus giving Nara a synonym of Nanto (meaning "South Capital") as opposed to Heian-kyō, situated in the north. Close at the end of Heian period, Taira no Shigehira, a son of Taira no Kiyomori, was ordered by his father to depress the power of mainly Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji, who were backing up an opposition group headed by Prince Mochihito. The movement has led into a collision between the Taira and the Nara temples in 1180, when eventually Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji were set on fire, resulting in the vast loss of its architectures.

Middle age Nara

At the rise of the Minamoto to its ruling seat and the opening of Kamakura Shogunate, Nara enjoyed the support of Minamoto no Yoritomo toward restoration. Kōfuku-ji, being the "home temple" to the Fujiwara since its foundation, not only regained the power it had before but became a de facto regional chief of Yamato Province. With the recovery of Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji, there was a town growing near the two temples.

The Nanboku-chō period, starting in 1336, brought more instability to Nara. As Emperor Go-Daigo chose Yoshino as his base, a power struggle arose in Kōfuku-ji with a group supporting the South and another siding the North court. Likewise, local clans were split into two. Kōfuku-ji recovers its control over the province for a short time at the surrender of the South Court in 1392, while the internal power game of the temple itself opened a way for the local samurai clans to spring up and fight with each other, gradually acquire their own territories, thus diminishing the influence of Kōfuku-ji overall.

The Sengoku, Edo periods and beyond

Later the whole province of Yamato got drawn into the confusion of the Sengoku period. Tōdai-ji was once again set on fire in 1567, when Matsunaga Hisahide, who was later appointed by Oda Nobunaga to the lord of Yamato Province, fought for supremacy against his former master Miyoshi family. Followed by short appointments of Tsutsui Junkei and Toyotomi Hidenaga by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to the lord, the Tokugawa Shogunate ultimately ruled the city of Nara directly, and most parts of Yamato province with a few feudal lords allocated at Kōriyama, Takatori and other places. With industry and commerce developing in the 18th century, the economy of the province was incorporated into prosperous Osaka, the commercial capital of Japan at the time.

The economic dependency to Osaka characterizes even today's Nara Prefecture, for many inhabitants commute to Osaka to work or study there.


* Gojō; * Gose; * Ikoma; * Kashiba; * Kashihara; * Katsuragi; * Nara (capital); * Sakurai; * Tenri; * Uda; * Yamatokōriyama; * Yamatotakada

Towns and villages in each district

    * Ikoma District: Ando, Heguri, Ikaruga, Sangō
    * Kitakatsuragi District: Kanmaki, Kawai, Kōryō, Ōji
    * Shiki District: Kawanishi, Miyake, Tawaramoto
    * Takaichi District: Asuka, Takatori
    * Uda District: Mitsue, Soni
    * Yamabe District: Yamazoe
    * Yoshino District: Higashiyoshino, Kamikitayama, Kawakami, Kurotaki, Nosegawa, Ōyodo, Shimoichi, Shimokitayama, Tenkawa, Totsukawa, Yoshino

Kansai region 関西地方, Kansai-chihō

The Kansai region (関西地方, Kansai-chihō) or the Kinki region (近畿地方, Kinki-chihō) lies in the southern-central region of Japan's main island Honshū. The region includes the prefectures of Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, and Shiga. Depending on who makes the distinction, Mie, Fukui, Tokushima and even Tottori Prefecture are also included. While the use of the terms "Kansai" and "Kinki" have changed over history, in most modern contexts the two can be considered the same. The urban region of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto (Keihanshin region) is the second most populated in Japan after the Greater Tokyo Area.

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