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the first japanese site selected as a UNESCO world heritage site was horyu-ji temple (法隆寺).  the site contains the oldest wooden structures in the world, dating back over 1,300 years to the 7th century.

horyu-ji was commissioned by prince shotoku in honor of his father who died before realizing his vision.  the temple was built and a statue of the buddha to which it was dedicated was placed on the grounds in the year 607.  the buddha statue is of yakushi nyorai, a buddha known as a healer.  most of the buildings were designed in the asuka style architecture, which show influence from china and west asian countries.

this is a great site to visit in japan, especially if you’re in the nara area.  i recommend that you first spend a full day walking around nara park and all its beautiful sites.  if you have time to visit a second location in the area, horyu-ji is a nice place to visit.  there are many buildings to visit here, as well as a museum with numerous pieces on display.

the simplest way to get to horyu-ji temple from osaka is to take the JR express yamatoji (大和路) bound for kamo (加茂).  stay on this train until you reach horyu-ji station, about 35 minutes and 620 yen.  i you are in nara, board the same train but bound for ten-no-ji (天王寺).  its 11 minutes and 210 yen.  once at the station, there’s a tourism desk just past the ticket gates.  get your map and directions here.  they will point out which bus you need to board, which will take you to the entrance for 170 yen.  you have two other options as well.  you can take a casual 20 minute walk to the site, or even rent a bicycle near the train station for 200 yen per hour.  you can use the bicycle or board another bus to get to hokki-ji temple, which is in the area as well.

admission to horyu-ji temple is 1,000 yen for a combination of three tickets.  you get admission to the temple, the museum, and toin garan (東院伽藍).  the day i went there were english speaking tour guides who volunteer their time if you would like them to show you around.  if you are interested, check to see if there are any around the day that you visit.

the path leading up to horyu-ji.

i’m standing just outside the south main entrance to the temple grounds.  you can see the pagoda and central gate.

the path leading to the central gate pictured above was lines with smaller buildings to both sides.  there were interesting roof statues that i had never seen before.  here’s a leaping rabbit.  there’s a couple more at the end of this article.

a monk walking through the grounds.

the central gate.

one of the clay guardian deities at either side of the central gate.  they are japan’s oldest.

from the central gate, looking south at the main entrance gate.

in the northwest section of the temple area is the west round hall.  it was built in the 8th century.

pagodas are where buddha relics are enshrined and are evolutions of indian stupas.  on each side of the first level of this pagoda is four important scenes in buddhist culture represented by clay statues.

some of the woodwork on the pagoda.  this guy must have the world’s worst headache.

next to the pagoda is the kondo (金堂), or main hall.  unfortunately no photos are allowed, but the there are several wonderful statues to which horyu-ji is dedicated, some of which were made by masters of the art.

the top four posts supporting the highest roof have wooden dragons snaking down.

heading east you will see shoryoin, a hall for prince shotoku’s soul.

heading to the toin garan and hall of visions.

i was there at just the right time for fall foliage, koyo (紅葉).

inside the toin garan is a bell house, whose bell is over 1,000 years old from the nara period.

the hall of visions in toin garan.  this is the oldest octagonal pavilion in japan and houses a statue of prince shotoku.

more photos for you to enjoy.

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clips of the west precinct.

further information:

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  1. […] as hokki-ji.  built in 706, the pagoda is the oldest of its kind in the world.  just like horyu-ji, hokki-ji was founded by prince shotoku though it was not built until after his death.  this world […]

  2. […] as such the timber is undergoing studies to determine its age, which could make it older than horyu-ji temple, the oldest wooden structure in the world. the orange tiles that you can see in a couple of […]