Beautiful Lotus Flowers: A Guide to Toshodai-ji Temple in Nara

Toshodai-ji Temple in Nara is a must-see spot that is essential for sightseeing in Nara. The temple was built by the Chinese monk Ganjin Wajo (an honorary title given to high-ranking monks), and is registered as a World Heritage Site. In this article, we will introduce the history and highlights of Toshodai-ji Temple.

About Toshodai-ji Temple

Toshodai-ji is the main temple of the Risshu sect of Buddhism, which makes a study of Buddhist precepts and practices, and was opened by the high monk Ganjin is 759, while he was visiting from China. Invited by the Emperor Shomu, Ganjin crossed the sea from China to Japan. It is said that he met with shipwrecks and other problems that impeded his trip 5 times, and during the trouble, he lost his eyesight. After finally reaching Japan, he is said to have upheld the highest Buddhist standards, despite now being blind.

Inside the temple are the Nandai-mon Gate,  the Golden Hall, the Kodo Lecture Hall, and the Kaisando Commemoration Hall, among many other structures, so we recommend having at least an hour to look around. Also, at the Toshodai-ji Temple Store, you can buy things such as "Tempyo-ko Jinko" incense for 1,000 yen,  a "Thousand-armed Kannon" amulet for 500 yen, or a tote bag for 1,000 yen.

The highlights of Toshodai-ji Temple

Highlight 1: The Golden Hall

The Golden Hall was built in the latter half of the 8th century, by Ganjin's sons, after the monk had died, and is the largest building still remaining from the Nara Period. It is designated as a national treasure for being a valuable building. The national treasures, the "Rushana Buddha" statue and thousand-armed Kannon statue, as well as the Medicine Buddha,  are lined up on display inside, so it is a must-see.

Highlight 2: The Ganjin Wajo Replacement Statue

The second highlight to see is the Ganjin Wajo replacement statue. It is a faithful copy of the national treasure Ganjin Wajo statue that is enshrined in the Miei-do hall, which is the oldest portrait statue in Japan. The replacement statue was produced for the 1,250th anniversary of Ganjin Wajo's death, and it looks as though it were actually living.

Highlight 3: The Kodo Lecture Hall

The third highlight is the Kodo Lecture Hall. Also a national treasure, it was built by relocating a building called the Higashi Choshu-do from Heijo-kyo Palace and adding windows and doors, repurposing it as a temple building. It is the only building at the temple that still remains built with Nara Period architecture, so it is a very important building. Inside, there are many Buddhist statues from the Kamakura Period.

Access to Toshodai-ji Temple

From JR or Kintestu Nara Station, take the bus heading to "Nara-ken Sogo Iryo Center-yuki" for about 17 minutes, and get off at the "Toshodai-ji" bus stop. From Kintetsu Nishinokyo Station, it's about a 10-minute walk.

Spot Information

  • Spot name:Toshodai-ji Temple
  • Address:13-46 13-46, Gojo-cho, Nara-shi, Nara-ken 630-8032
  • Access:  Get off at the "Toshodai-ji" bus stop
  • Wi-Fi: WiFi is only available around the Nandai-mon Gate
  • Language:Official website is available in English, Simplified Chinese, and Korean. Pamphlet available in English, Simplified Chinese and Korean
  • Ticket:600 yen, Ganjin Wajo Statue (original national treasure statue) special exhibit 500 yen, New Treasure House 200 yen
  • Business Hours: 8:30 - 17:00 (last entry 16:30)
  • Holidays: Open year-round