Todaiji is a provincial temple established by the state to implore the gods for peace and to prevent accidents and disasters
Todaiji is a cultural property in Nara that is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. It is home to countless works of art and structures that are designated National Treasures, and is full of objects of extremely significant cultural value. Here, you will experience the dynamic atmosphere of a history spanning the ages in such objects as the main temple building, which houses Japan’s largest temple, and Daibutsu (the great Buddha statue).
The history of Todaiji starts in the year 728, when the emperor at that time (Emperor Shoumu) built a family temple (Kinshoji, or Konjuji) for his son (the Imperial Prince) who died before reaching his first birthday. After that, it became a provincial temple to implore the gods for national peace and to prevent accidents and disasters. Further developments led to Todaiji being established as the leading provincial temple in the country.
Daibutsu, which was completed in the year 752, is also known as Rushanabutsu, which is an alias of Shaka Nyorai, the Buddha who comprehended universal truth. His name means the Buddha who Illuminates the Universe, or the Glorious Buddha. With universal wisdom in his left hand, and displaying mercy with his right hand, it is said that the great Buddha statue is praying for people to be bound by kindness, and for deeper connections to be built (from the “History of Todaiji” section on the Todaiji website). As a location of learning for various sects, Todaiji also had a role as an open study center.
In addition to damage from natural disasters, Todaiji was twice destroyed by fire during wars. Repairs were carried out every time and a lot of hard work was put in to preserving the beautiful appearance. From 1998 to the present day, it has been a registered UNESCO World Heritage site. People find that the sight of the sides of Nandaimon (a National Treasure) curving elegantly toward the sky is overwhelmingly beautiful, while Daibutsuden imparts a weighty and powerful feeling that is both dignified and magnificent. Todaiji has so many highlights, including the countless National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties.
The huge wooden images of guardian deities are not to be missed
At a height of 8.4 meters, the huge wooden images of guardian deities (National Treasures) flanking Nandaimon on both sides are not to be missed. Records show that these figures were made by the genius Buddhist image sculptors Unkei and Kaikei and their 13 disciples in just 69 days during the Kamakura period in the year 1208. These vivid and powerful statues stand magnificently, captured in a moment with their clothes fluttering in the wind. They have an incredible realism so that even their blood vessels can be seen. The image of the powerful Rikishi is a masterpiece of art from the middle of the Kamakura period.
The spacious Todaiji also features cafes and shops, so you can take a break to relax while sightseeing.