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recruited by the then emperor of japan to spread buddhism, a chinese priest named ganjin failed on his first five attempts to land in japan.  he finally succeeded on his sixth attempt, but by that time he was blind due to age and disease.  as the only qualified person to spread buddhism in japan, ganjin spend his first 5 years in todai-ji (東大寺), later moving to toshodai-ji (唐招提寺), pictured above, and establishing it in the year 759AD.

toshodai-ji currently serves as the head temple of the ritsu sect of buddhism.  the main hall, kondo (金堂), is pictured above and is considered a national treasure of japan.  built as early as 781AD, the building’s architecture with its eight pillars is considered the epitome of classical style.  getting to toshodai-ji is best accomplished by taking 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 here make sure to take the kashihara-sen train (橿原線) bound for kashihara-jingumae (橿原神宮前) for two stops on the local train, which will be the nishi-no-kyo station (西ノ京駅).  the faster trains do not stop in nishi-no-kyo.

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 saidai-ji, follow the same instructions as those from osaka.  from nishi-no-kyo walk east along the street for about 90 meters (98 yards) and make a left at the first street.  walk straight for roughly 550 meters (600 yards) and you will get to the outside walls of toshodai-ji.  the main gate will be towards the right, admission is 600 yen.  if you can visit from june 5th to the 7th, make sure to see the statue of the priest ganjin.

a look at one of the two major roof pieces of the main hall.


though the main hall is not open, i did get a post card.


though the main hall is closed for renovation, the kodo (講堂) is open and has some wonderful wodden statues.  DSC_9148

from kodo, looking back at the hongan hall (本願殿) and the higashi-muro (東室).


looking back at the kodo through the passage way connecting it and the storage hall.


through this leafy path, you will find a new building at the end.  this building contains 15 national cultural treasures.  some are complete statues while others are the remains.  they are unimpressive at first, but then when you realize their age and that they were carved out of wood, it makes quite an impression.  the original roof tiles on the kondo hall, pictured at the beginning of this page, are also contained within this building.


there are a few ponds on the grounds, and some very nice greenery.


this is a wall surrounding a wooded moss garden with two ponds.  notice how they used tiles within the wall for structural integrity.


a shot of the fluffy looking moss.


further along you will cross a narrow path with ponds on either side.  there’s a mound with trees and plants and on top there is a shrine.  i was able to snap this photo right as she was making a prayer.  :)


this is about as close as you can get.


video of the location:


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  1. […] and was responsible for adding several buildings to the grounds. kukai was also responsible for toshodai-ji, another UNESCO world heritage site. the five-story pagoda on the grounds of the temple is the […]