nara was the capital of japan for just 75 years, from 710AD until 785AD. during that time the emperor resided at this location, heijo-kyu (平城宮). based on chinese tradition for its layout within the capital, heijo ceased to be the emperor’s palace when the capital was moved north to kyoto.
the few present buildings today have been reconstructed as the palace fell to time and weather after being abandoned. the foundations and the bases of the columns of the major buildings have been unearthed or built in place. this helps visitors to get an understanding of the layout of the palace. to arrive at heijo palace, it is easiest to board the kintetsu’s nara line (近鉄奈良線) from tsuruhashi station (鶴橋駅) on the osaka loop line. get on the express train to save time and get off at yamato saidai-ji station (大和西大寺駅). from kyoto, take the kintetsu train bound for kashihara. the kintetsu line in kyoto is adjacently south of the main JR station of kyoto. once you arrive at yamato-saidai-ji, walk due east for roughly 500 meters (550 yards). you will arrive at the edge of the park. ahead you will see the saki-cho building, which will finish reconstruction in 2010. towards the right you will see the museum, which has many national treasures unearthed from the palace grounds. admission to the museum and the park are free.
there is not much to see at this location, so i would recommend visiting heijo palace if you have the spare time. otherwise, stick to the main sites around nara koen park (奈良公園). if you decide to visit this location, make sure to visit the museum as it has a lot of great artifacts and schematics of the location.
you are currently at the north west corner of the former palace grounds, so from here follow the signs shown below.
this is a reconstruction of suzaku-mon (朱雀門). constructed at the south end of the park, it served as the main gate when the palace was inhabited. also pictured at the beginning of this page.
these reconstructed foundations served as the ministry of military affairs.
a look at saki-cho as it is being reconstructed.
looking south from atop the foundation of the halls of state compound.
a layout of what the hall of state and the halls of state compound resembled almost 1,300 years ago.