Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara (UNESCO/NHK)

Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara (UNESCO/NHK)


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Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. During this period the framework of national government was consolidated and Nara enjoyed great prosperity, emerging as the fountainhead of Japanese culture. The city's historic monuments -- Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and the excavated remains of the great Imperial Palace -- provide a vivid picture of life in the Japanese capital in the 8th century, a period of profound political ...

Source: UNESCO TV / © NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai
URL: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/870/


Visit Nara

There are so many places of historic and cultural significance in Nara, that UNESCO has classified them in three World Heritage groups: Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, Buddhist Monuments in the Horyuji Area and Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.

That means there are actually dozens of amazing World Heritage places to visit in Nara. In the Horyuji area alone, there are 48 World Heritage Buddhist monuments enough to keep you busy for a while.

Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

According to UNESCO, the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara demonstrate the evolution of Japanese architecture and art as a result of cultural links with China and Korea, which were to have a profound influence on future developments. The majority are close to Nara Park.

Along with everyone’s must-sees Todaiji Temple and Kasugataisha Shrine, Mt. Kasuga Primeval Forest is recognised as a key natural space, integral to Shinto beliefs. Kohfukuji Temple and Gangoji Temple are also on the list.

Nearby, the ruins of Heijo Palace and the ancient capital are considered outstanding examples of architecture and city planning. Yakushiji Temple and Toshodaiji Temple are also World Heritage sites and fascinating in their own right. All can be easily reached with a Nara Kotsu 1 Day Bus Pass.

Buddhist Monuments in the Horyuji Area

The area around Horyuji Temple is so rich in history, it gets its own special World Heritage listing. The 48 Buddhist monuments include buildings and carvings. Several of the buildings date from the late 7th or early 8th century, making them some of the oldest surviving wooden structures in the world.

Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

If natural wonders are more your thing, you can explore the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. The pilgrim trails link Yoshino and Omine in Nara with the mountain-top temple complex Koyasan and the Kumano Sanzan grand shrines of Wakayama. The mountains and paths here have been sacred for over 1,200 years.


Contents

Nara Prefecture region is considered one of the oldest regions in Japan, having been in existence for thousands of years. Like Kyoto, Nara was one of Imperial Japan's earliest capital cities. [6] [7] The current form of Nara Prefecture was officially created in 1887 when it became independent of Osaka Prefecture.

Historically, Nara Prefecture was also known as Yamato-no-kuni or Yamato Province. [8]

Up to Nara Period Edit

From the third century to the fourth century, a poorly documented political force existed at the foot of Mount Miwa, east of Nara Basin. It sought unification of most parts in Japan. Since the historical beginning of Japan, Yamato was its political center.

Ancient capitals of Japan were built on the land of Nara, namely Asuka-kyō, Fujiwara-kyō (694–710) [9] and Heijō-kyō (most of 710–784). [10] The capital cities of Fujiwara and Heijō are believed to have been modeled after Chinese capitals at the time, incorporating grid layout patterns. The royal court also established relations with Sui and then Tang dynasty China and sent students to the Middle Kingdom to learn high civilization. By 7th century, Nara accepted the many immigrants including refugees of Baekje who had escaped from war disturbances of the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The first high civilization with royal patronage of Buddhism flourished in today's Nara city (710–784 AD).

Nara in the Heian period Edit

In 784, Emperor Kanmu decided to relocate the capital to Nagaoka-kyō in Yamashiro Province, followed by another move in 794 to Heian-kyō, marking the start of the Heian period. The temples in Nara remained powerful beyond the move of political capital, thus giving Nara a synonym of "Nanto" (meaning "South Capital") as opposed to Heian-kyō, situated in the north. Close to the end of Heian period, Taira no Shigehira, a son of Taira no Kiyomori, was ordered by his father to depress the power of various parties, mainly Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji, who were backing up an opposition group headed by Prince Mochihito. The movement led to a collision between the Taira and the Nara temples in 1180. This clash eventually led to Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji being set on fire, resulting in vast destruction of architectural heritage.

Medieval Nara Edit

At the rise of the Minamoto to its ruling seat and the opening of Kamakura shogunate, Nara enjoyed the support of Minamoto no Yoritomo toward restoration. Kōfuku-ji, being the "home temple" to the Fujiwara since its foundation, not only regained the power it had before but became a de facto regional chief of Yamato Province. With the reconstruction of Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji, a town was growing again near the two temples.

The Nanboku-chō period, starting in 1336, brought more instability to Nara. As Emperor Go-Daigo chose Yoshino as his base, a power struggle arose in Kōfuku-ji with a group supporting the South and another siding the North court. Likewise, local clans were split into two. Kōfuku-ji recovered its control over the province for a short time at the surrender of the South Court in 1392, while the internal power game of the temple itself opened a way for the local samurai clans to spring up and fight with each other, gradually acquiring their own territories, thus diminishing the influence of Kōfuku-ji overall.

The Sengoku and Edo periods to present Edit

Later, the whole province of Yamato got drawn into the confusion of the Sengoku period. Tōdai-ji was once again set on fire in 1567, when Matsunaga Hisahide, who was later appointed by Oda Nobunaga to the lord of Yamato Province, fought for supremacy against his former master Miyoshi family. Followed by short appointments of Tsutsui Junkei and Toyotomi Hidenaga by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to the lord, the Tokugawa shogunate ultimately ruled the city of Nara directly, and most parts of Yamato province with a few feudal lords allocated at Kōriyama, Takatori and other places. With industry and commerce developing in the 18th century, the economy of the province was incorporated into prosperous Osaka, the commercial capital of Japan at the time.

The economic dependency to Osaka even characterizes today's Nara Prefecture, for many inhabitants commute to Osaka to work or study there.

The establishment of Nara Prefecture Edit

A first prefecture (briefly -fu in 1868, but -ken for most of the time) [11] named Nara was established in the Meiji Restoration in 1868 as successor to the shogunate administration of the shogunate city and shogunate lands in Yamato. After the 1871 Abolition of the han system, Nara was merged with other prefectures (from former han, see List of Han#Yamato Province) and cleared of ex-/enclaves to encompass all of Yamato province. In 1876, Nara was merged into Sakai which in turn became part of Osaka in 1881. In 1887, Nara became independent again. The first prefectural assembly of Nara was elected in the same year and opened its first session in 1888 in the gallery of the main hall of Tōdai temple. [12]

In the 1889 Great Meiji mergers which subdivided all (then 45) prefectures into modern municipalities, Nara prefecture's 16 districts were subdivided into 154 municipalities: 10 towns and 144 villages. The first city in Nara was only established in 1898 when Nara Town from Soekami District was made district-independent to become Nara City (see List of mergers in Nara Prefecture and List of mergers in Osaka Prefecture).

Nara Prefecture is part of the Kansai, or Kinki, region of Japan, and is located in the middle of the Kii Peninsula on the western half of Honshu. Nara Prefecture is landlocked. It is bordered to the west by Wakayama Prefecture and Osaka Prefecture on the north by Kyoto Prefecture and on the east by Mie Prefecture.

Nara Prefecture is 78.5 kilometres (48.8 mi) from east to west and 103.6 kilometres (64.4 mi) from north to south.

Most of the prefecture is covered by mountains and forests, leaving an inhabitable area of only 851 square kilometres (329 sq mi). The ratio of inhabitable area to total area is 23%, ranked 43rd among the 47 prefectures in Japan. [13]

Nara Prefecture is bisected by the Japan Median Tectonic Line (MTL) running through its territory east to west, along the Yoshino River. On the northern side of the MTL is the so-called Inner Zone, where active faults running north to south are still shaping the landscape. The Ikoma Mountains in the northwest form the border with Osaka Prefecture. The Nara Basin, which lies to the east of these mountains, contains the highest concentration of population in Nara Prefecture. Further east are the Kasagi Mountains, which separate the Basin from the Yamato Highlands.

South of the MTL is the Outer Zone, comprising the Kii Mountains, which occupy about 60% of the land area of the prefecture. The Ōmine Range is in the center of the Kii Mountains, running north to south, with steep valleys on both sides. The tallest mountain in Nara Prefecture, and indeed in the Kansai region, is Mount Hakkyō. To the west, separating Nara Prefecture from Wakayama Prefecture, is the Obako Range, with peaks around 1,300 metres (4,300 ft). To the east, bordering Mie Prefecture, is the Daikō Range, including Mount Ōdaigahara. This mountainous region is also home to a World Heritage Site, the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range".

About 17% of the total land area of the prefecture is designated as National Park land, comprising the Yoshino-Kumano National Park, Kongō-Ikoma-Kisen, Kōya-Ryūjin, Murō-Akame-Aoyama, and Yamato-Aogaki Quasi-National Parks and the Tsukigase-Kōnoyama, Yata, and Yoshinogawa-Tsuboro Prefectural Natural Parks. [14]

Climate Edit

In the Nara Basin, the climate has inland characteristics, as represented in the bigger temperature variance within the same day, and the difference of summer and winter temperatures. Winter temperatures average about 3 to 5 °C (37 to 41 °F), and 25 to 28 °C (77 to 82 °F) in the summer with highest reaching close to 35 °C (95 °F). There is not a single year over the last decade (since 1990, up to 2007) with more than 10 days of snowfall recorded by Nara Local Meteorological Observatory.

The climate in the rest of the prefecture are mountainous, and especially in the south, with below −5 °C (23 °F) being the extreme minimum in winter. Heavy rainfall is observed in summer. The annual accumulated rainfall ranges as much as 3,000 to 5,000 millimetres (120 to 200 in), which is among the heaviest in Japan.

Spring and fall are temperate. The mountainous region of Yoshino has been popular both historically and presently for its cherry blossoms in the spring. In the fall, the southern mountains are equally striking with the changing of the oak trees. [ citation needed ]

Cities Edit

There are twelve cities in Nara Prefecture:

Kansai Science City is located in the northwest.

Towns and villages Edit

There are seven districts in Nara, which are further divided into 15 towns and 12 villages as follows:

Mergers Edit

Population by districts [15]
District Area Size
(km 2 )
Population Density
per km 2
Yamato flat inland plain 837.27 1,282 1,531
(Share in %) 22.7% 89.7%
Yamato highland 506.89 56 110
(Share in %) 13.7% 3.9%
Gojō, Yoshino 2,346.84 92 39
(Share in %) 63.6% 6.4%
Total Prefecture 3,691.09 1,430 387
(Share in %) 100.0% 100.0%

According to the 2005 Census of Japan, Nara Prefecture has a population of 1,421,310, which is a decrease of 1.5%, since the year 2000. [16]

The decline continued in 2006, with another decrease of 4,987 people compared to 2005. This includes a natural decrease from previous year of 288 people (11,404 births minus 11,692 deaths) and a decrease due to net domestic migration of 4,627 people outbound from the prefecture, and a decrease of 72 registered foreigners. Net domestic migration has turned into a continuous outbound trend since 1998. The largest destinations of migration in 2005 were the prefectures of Kyoto, Tokyo, and Hyōgo, with respectively a net of 1,130,982 and 451 people moving over. The largest inbound migration was from Niigata Prefecture, contributing to a net increase of 39 people. 13.7% of its population were reported as under 15, 65.9% between 15 and 64, and 20.4% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 52.5% of the population. [17]

As of 2004, the average density of the prefecture is 387 people per km 2 . By districts, [18] the so-called Yamato flat inland plain holds as much as about 90% of total population within the approximately 23% size of area in the north-west, including the Nara Basin, representing a density of 1,531 people per km 2 . To the contrast, the combined district Gojō and Yoshino District occupies almost 64% of the land, while only 6% of people lives there, resulting in a density of 39 people km 2 .

Nara prefecture had the highest rate in Japan of people commuting outbound for work, at 30.9% in 2000. A similar tendency is seen in prefectures such as Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa, all three of them having over 20% of people commuting for other prefectures. [13]

  • A governor and members of prefectural assembly is elected by citizens in accordance with the Local Autonomy Law. has been governor since 2007, a former LDP member of the national House of Councillors. In the April 2019 gubernatorial election, he was re-elected to a fourth term with major party support (LDP, DPFP, Kōmeitō) with 47.5% of the vote against former Democratic Diet member and vice-minister Kiyoshige Maekawa (32.3%) and independent physician Minoru Kawashima (20.2%). [19]
  • As of 2019, there are 43 seats in the Nara Prefectural Assembly, elected in 16 constituencies (4 single-member, 12 multi-member). [20] After the April 2019 assembly election, the LDP is by far the largest party with 21 members while no other party won more than four seats, [21] but its members are split between several parliamentary groups by group, the composition as of May 2019 was: LDP 10, LDP Nara 9, Sōsei Nara [of independents] 5, Shinsei Nara [mainly DPFP] 5, JCP 4, Nippon Ishin no Kai 4, Kōmeitō 3, LDP Kizuna 2. [22]
  • There was a clear tendency seen through the results of Lower House election in 2005, that the younger generation executes its voting right much less compared to the older. Only 48.8% of citizens age 20–29 voted, whereas all older generations (grouped by decades) votes more than its younger, reaching the highest voting rate of 86.3% at ages 60–69. The only exception was the 72.1% voting right executed by citizens of 70 or older. The overall average of the prefecture who voted was yet higher, at 70.3%, than that of nationwide average, 67.5%. [23]
  • As of October 2019, Nara's directly elected delegation to the National Diet is all-LDP, namely:
    • in the House of Representatives where Nara has lost one district in a 2017 reapportionment
      • for the 1st district in the North consisting of most of Nara City and Ikoma City: Shigeki Kobayashi (LDP, 2nd term) who narrowly defeated long-time incumbent Sumio Mabuchi in the 2017 House of Representatives election,
      • for the 2nd district with southern suburbs (and a small part) of the capital: Sanae Takaichi (LDP, 8th term) who has served as minister in several cabinets and was re-elected with 60% of the vote in 2017,
      • for the 3rd district which covers the less urbanized, central and Southern parts of Nara: Taidō Tanose (LDP, 3rd term), member for the now-abolished 4th district before 2017,
      • in the 2016–2022 class: Kei Satō (LDP, 1st term) who defeated incumbent Kiyoshige Maekawa in 2016 by a twelve-point-margin in a three-way contest with an Osaka Ishin no Kai challenger,
      • in the 2019–2025 class: Iwao Horii (LDP, 2nd term) who defended the seat 55% to 40% against an "independent", joint centre-left (CDP, DPFP, SDP) challenger in 2019.

      The 2004 total gross prefecture product (GPP) for Nara was ¥3.8 trillion, an 0.1% growth over previous year. The per capita income was ¥2.6 million, which is a 1.3% decrease from previous year. The 2004 total gross prefecture product (GPP) for Nara was ¥3.8 trillion, an 0.1% growth over previous year. Manufacturing has the biggest share in the GPP of Nara with 20.2% of share, followed by services (19.1%) and real estates (16.3%). The share of agriculture including forestry and fishery was a mere 1.0%, only above mining, which is quasi-inexistent in Nara. [24]

      • Tourism is treated by the prefectural government as one of the most important features of Nara, because of its natural environment and historical significance.
      • Nara is famed for its Kaki persimmon. Strawberry and tea are some other popular products of the prefecture, while rice and vegetables, including spinach, tomato, eggplants, and others are the dominant in terms of amount of production.
      • Nara is a center for the production of instruments used in conducting traditional Japanese artforms. Brush and ink (sumi) are the best known products from Nara for calligraphy. Wooden or bamboo instruments, especially from Takayama area (in Ikoma city) are famous products for tea ceremony. from Yamatokōriyama in Nara have been a traditional aquacultural product since the 18th century.
      • Due to its rich history, Nara is also the location of many archeological digs, with many famous ones being located in the village of Asuka.

      The culture of Nara is tied to the Kansai region in which it is located. However, like each of the other prefectures of Kansai, Nara has unique aspects to its culture, parts of which stem from its long history dating back to the Nara period.

      Dialect Edit

      There are large differences in dialect between the north/central region of the prefecture, where Nara city is located, and the Okunoya district in the south. The north/central dialect is close to Osaka's dialect, whilst Okunoya's dialect favours a Tokyo-style accent. The lengthening of vowels sounds in the Okunoya dialect is not seen in other dialects of the Kinki region, making it a special feature.

      Food culture Edit

      Foods particular to Nara Prefecture include:

        , a method of pickling vegetables
    • Miwa sōmen, a type of wheat noodle , a rice porridge made with green tea , sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves , rice balls wrapped in pickled takana leaves
    • Traditional arts Edit

      The following are recognized by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry as being traditional arts of Nara: [25] [26]


      Contents

      By the Heian period, a variety of different characters had been used to represent the name Nara: 乃楽, 乃羅, 平, 平城, 名良, 奈良, 奈羅, 常, 那良, 那楽, 那羅, 楢, 諾良, 諾楽, 寧, 寧楽 and 儺羅.

      A number of theories for the origin of the name "Nara" have been proposed, and some of the better-known ones are listed here. The second theory in the list, from the notable folklorist Kunio Yanagita (1875-1962), is most widely accepted at present.

      • The Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan, the second oldest book of classical Japanese history) suggests that "Nara" was derived from narasu (to flatten, to level). According to this account, in September in the tenth year of Emperor Sujin, "leading selected soldiers (the rebels) went forward, climbed Nara-yama (hills lying to the north of Heijō-kyō) and put them in order. Now the imperial forces gathered and flattened trees and plants. Therefore the mountain is called Nara-yama." Though the narrative itself is regarded as a folk etymology and few researchers regard it as historical, this is the oldest surviving suggestion, and is linguistically similar to the following theory by Yanagita.
      • "Flat land" theory (currently most widely accepted): In his 1936 study of placenames, [1] the author Kunio Yanagita states that "the topographical feature of an area of relatively gentle gradient on the side of a mountain, which is called taira in eastern Japan and hae in the south of Kyushu, is called naru in the Chūgoku region and Shikoku (central Japan). This word gives rise to the verb narasu, adverb narashi, and adjective narushi." This is supported by entries in a dialect dictionary [2] for nouns referring to flat areas: naru (found in Aida District, Okayama Prefecture and Ketaka District, Tottori Prefecture) and naro (found in Kōchi Prefecture) and also by an adjective narui which is not standard Japanese, but is found all across central Japan, with meanings of "gentle", "gently sloping", or "easy". Yanagita further comments that the way in which the fact that so many of these placenames are written using the character 平 ("flat"), or other characters in which it is an element, demonstrates the validity of this theory. Citing a 1795 document, Inaba-shi ( 因幡志 ) from the province of Inaba, the eastern part of modern Tottori, as indicating the reading naruji for the word 平地 (standard reading heichi, meaning "level/flat ground/land/country, a plain"), Yanagita suggests that naruji would have been used as a common noun there until the modern period. Of course, the fact that historically "Nara" was also written 平 or 平城 as above is further support for this theory.
      • The idea that Nara is derived from 楢 nara (Japanese for "oak, deciduous Quercus spp.") is the next most common opinion. This idea was suggested by a linguist, Yoshida Togo. [3] This noun for the plant can be seen as early as in Man'yōshū (7-8th century) and Harima-no-kuni Fudoki (715). The latter book states the place name Narahara in Harima (around present-day Kasai) derives from this nara tree, which might support Yoshida's theory. Note that the name of the nearby city of Kashihara (literally "live oak plain") contains a semantically similar morpheme (Japanese 橿 kashi "live oak, evergreen Quercus spp.").
      • Nara could be a loanword from Old Korean, related to Middle Korean narah and Modern Koreannara (나라: "country, nation, kingdom"). This idea was put forward by a linguist Matsuoka Shizuo. [4] American linguist Samuel E. Martin notes that the earliest attestation of this word in Korean sources—given in an eighth-century hyangga text, in the phonogramic form 國惡—should be read as NAL[A-]ak. This is similar to the form implied by the Old Japanese writings of Nara that transcribe the second syllable with 楽 (raku), and Martin notes that the city name has been "long suspected of being a borrowing from the Korean word". [5] Kusuhara et al. argues that this hypothesis cannot account for the fact there are many places named Nara, Naru and Naro besides this Nara. [6]
      • There is the idea that Nara is akin to Tungusicna. [7] In some Tungusic languages such as Orok (and likely Goguryeo language), na means earth, land or the like. Some have speculated about a connection between these Tungusic words and Old Japanese nawi, an archaic and somewhat obscure word that appears in the verb phrases nawi furu and nawi yoru ('an earthquake occurs, to have an earthquake'). [8]

      The "flat land" theory is adopted by Nihon Kokugo Daijiten (the largest dictionary of Japanese language), various dictionaries for place names, [6] [9] [10] history books on Nara, [11] and the like today, and it is regarded as the most likely.

      Pre-Nara/Origins Edit

      There are a number of kofun in Nara, including Gosashi Kofun, Hishiage Kofun ( ヒシアゲ古墳 ) , Horaisan Kofun ( 宝来山古墳 ) , Konabe Kofun ( コナベ古墳 ) , Saki Ishizukayama Kofun ( 佐紀石塚山古墳 ) , Saki Misasagiyama Kofun ( 佐紀陵山古墳 ) , and Uwanabe Kofun ( ウワナベ古墳 ) .

      By decree of an edict on March 11, 708 AD, Empress Genmei ordered the court to relocate to the new capital, Nara. [12] Once known as Heijō or Heijō-kyō, the city was established as Japan's first permanent capital in 710 CE it was the seat of government until 784 CE, albeit with five year interruption, lasting from 741-5 CE. [12] [13] Heijō, as the ‘penultimate court’, however, was abandoned by the order of Emperor Kammu in 784 CE in favor of the temporary site of Nagaoka, and then Heian-kyō (Kyoto) which retained the status of capital for 1,100 years, until the Meiji Emperor made the final move to Edo in 1869 CE. [14] [13] [15] This first relocation was due to the court's transformation from an imperial nobility to a force of metropolitan elites and new technique of dynastic shedding which had refashioned the relationship between court, nobility, and country. [14] Moreover, the ancient capital lent its name to Nara period. [13]

      As a reactionary expression to the political centralization of China, the city of Nara (Heijō) was modeled after the Tang capital at Chang’an. [15] Nara was laid out on a grid—which was based upon the Handen system—whereby the city was divided by four great roads. [13] Likewise, according to Chinese cosmology, the ruler's place was fixed like the pole star. By dominating the capital, the ruler brought heaven to earth. [16] Thus, the south facing palace centered at the north, bisected the ancient city, instituting ‘Right Capital’ and ‘Left Capital’ zones. [14] [16] As Nara came to be an epicenter of Buddhism in Japan and a prominent pilgrimage site, the city plan incorporated various pre-Heijō and Heijō period temples, of which the Yakushiji and the Todaiji still stand. [14] [15]

      Politics Edit

      A number of scholars have characterized the Nara period as a time of penal and administrative legal order. [17] The Taihō Code called for the establishment of administrative sects underneath the central government, and modeled many of the codes from the Chinese Tang dynasty. [18] The code eventually disbanded, but its contents were largely preserved in the Yōrō Code of 718. [18]

      Occupants of the throne during the period gradually shifted their focus from military preparation to religious rites and institutions, in an attempt to strengthen their divine authority over the population. [17]

      Religion and Temples Edit

      With the establishment of the new capital, Asuka-dera, the temple of the Soga clan, was relocated within Nara. [19] The Emperor Shōmu ordered the construction of Tōdai-ji Temple (largest wooden building in the world) and the world's largest bronze Buddha statue. [15] The temples of Nara, known collectively as the Nanto Shichi Daiji, remained spiritually significant even beyond the move of the political capital to Heian-kyō in 794, thus giving Nara a synonym of Nanto ( 南都 "The southern Capital").

      On December 2, 724 AD, in order to increase the visual “magnificence” of the city, an edict was ordered by the government for the noblemen and the wealthy to renovate the roofs, pillars, and walls of their homes, although at that time this was unfeasible. [12]

      Sightseeing in Nara city became popular in the Edo period, during which several visitor's maps of Nara were widely published. [20] During the Meiji Period, the Kofukuji Temple lost some land and its monks were converted into Shinto priests, due to Buddhism being associated with the old shogunate. [21]

      Tōdai-ji is a Buddhist temple and the world's largest wooden building (8th century)

      Houtokuji ( Yagyu Clan Tomb)

      Modern Nara Edit

      Even though Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 794, it was not designated a city until 1 February, 1898. Nara city has developed from a town of commerce in the Edo and Meiji periods to a modern tourist city, due to its large number of historical temples, landmarks and national monuments. Nara was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in December 1998. [22] The architecture of some shops, ryokans and art galleries has been adapted from traditional merchant houses. [21]

      Nara holds traditional festivals every year, including the Neri-Kuyo Eshiki, a spring festival held in Todaiji temple for over 1,000 years and the Kemari Festival, in which people wear costumes ranging across 700 years and play traditional games). [23]

      In 1909, Tatsuno Kingo designed the Nara Hotel, whose architecture combines modern elements with traditional Japanese style. [21]

      The city of Nara lies in the northern end of Nara Prefecture, directly bordering Kyoto Prefecture to its north. The city is 22.22 kilometres (13.81 mi) from North to South, from East to West. [ clarification needed ] As a result of the latest merger, effective April 1, 2005, that combined the villages of Tsuge and Tsukigase with the city of Nara, the city now borders Mie Prefecture directly to its east. The total area is 276.84 square kilometres (106.89 square miles). [24]

      Nara city, as well as several important settlements (such as Kashihara, Yamatokōriyama, Tenri, Yamatotakada, Sakurai and Goze [25] ), are located in the Nara Basin. [26] This makes it the most densely-populated region of Nara Prefecture. [26]

      The downtown of Nara is on the east side of the ancient Heijō Palace site, occupying the northern part of what was called the Gekyō ( 外京 ) , literally the outer capital area. Many of the public offices (e.g. the Municipal office, the Nara Prefectural government, the Nara Police headquarters, etc.) are located on Nijō-ōji ( 二条大路 ) , while Nara branch offices of major nationwide banks are on Sanjō-ōji ( 三条大路 ) , with both avenues running east–west.

      The highest point in the city is at the peak of Kaigahira-yama at an altitude of 822.0 m (2,696.85 ft) (Tsugehayama-cho district), and the lowest is in Ikeda-cho district, with an altitude of 56.4 m (185.04 ft). [27]

      Climate Edit

      The climate of Nara Prefecture is generally temperate, although there are notable differences between the north-western basin area and the rest of the prefecture which is more mountainous.

      The basin area climate has an inland characteristic, as represented in the higher daily temperature variance, and the difference between summer and winter temperatures. Winter temperatures average approximately 3 to 5 °C (37 to 41 °F), and from 25 to 28 °C (77 to 82 °F) in the summer with highest readings reaching close to 35 °C (95 °F). There has not been a single year since 1990 with more than 10 days of snowfall recorded by Nara Local Meteorological Observatory.

      The climate in the rest of the prefecture is that of higher elevations especially in the south, with −5 °C (23 °F) being the extreme minimum in winter. Heavy rainfall is often observed in summer. The annual accumulated rainfall totals as much as 3,000 to 5,000 mm (118.11 to 196.85 in), which is among the heaviest in Japan and indeed in the world outside the equatorial zone.

      Spring and fall temperatures are temperate and comfortable. The mountainous region of Yoshino has been long popular for viewing cherry blossoms in the spring. In autumn, the southern mountains are also a popular destination for viewing fall foliage.


      Tomioka Silk Mill was established in the late 19th century by the Meiji government as one of the first modern silk mills with western machines. The high quality silk produced at Tomioka was exported and took an important role in the modernization and industrialization of Japan.

      There are currently these 18 sites on the World Heritage List. However, recently it is said that there is a high possibility for a new site to rank up from the tentative list. That is, Gunkanjima, the sites that signify the industrialization of Japan in the Meiji era in fields such as iron making, shipbuilding and coal production.


      Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan

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      Inscribed in 2020 (15.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

      The conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan consists in a set of traditional skills, techniques and knowledge. Roughly seventy per cent of the country is forested. Therefore, wood has been used in houses since ancient times. In fact, the world’s oldest surviving wooden structure is the Horyu-ji temple that was built in the early seventh century. Some examples of the seventeen skills described in the nomination file, include sakan plastering, the harvesting of Japanese cypress bark, lacquer painting of traditional structures, the production of tatami mats (flooring material), and many more. Until the nineteenth century, master craftsmen trained apprentices as successors to transmit knowledge of the traditional skills. Due to modernization, however, this process became more difficult, so preservation associations were formed. Knowledge includes not only techniques for building new structures, but also restoring existing ones. Due to the country’s hot and humid climate, repair work must happen often. At restoration sites, craftspeople with different skills must complete the work together. Some maintenance work also requires the involvement of local residents. For example, reed or straw thatch on a roof needs to be completely renewed every twenty years, which is a labour-intensive job. The element thus serves a social function by fostering cooperation and social cohesion and strengthens Japanese people’s sense of cultural identity.

      © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019 © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019 © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019 © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019 © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019 © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019 © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019 © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019 © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019 © Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2019

      Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara in Nara Prefecture – Japan

      The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monuments include Buddhist and historic monuments.

      Location and How to Get to This Specific Site

      The prefecture is located in the Honshu Island. It is at the Kansai region. To and from Kyoto, you can take the Miyakoji rapid train. These run every half hour between the JR Nara Station and the Kyoto station. A one way trip takes 45 minutes. Travelers can also use Kintetsu Railways. They leave twice every hour. The Kintetsu station is near the Nara and Kofukuji Park.

      What to See There

      The monuments in the UNESCO list are comprised of eight places. All are in Old Nara (the former capital of Japan). These are made up of a forest, a Shinto shrine and five Buddhist temples. The Buddhist temples are the Todai-ji, Kofuku-ji, Gango-ji and Yakushi-ji. The Shinto shrine is called the Kasuga Shrine. There is also the Nara Palace site and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest.

      While these are the only parts in the UNESCO list, Nara is filled with ancient treasures. All around the old city are ancient temples and burial sites. Collectively they are known as kofun.

      Nara was established as Japan’s first capital in 710. Back then the
      place was known as Jeijo. In no time at all, the Buddhist monasteries began springing up. They would become so powerful the government had to relocate the capital to Nagaoka in 784. But Nara would leave behind a rich legacy. This is evident from the structures that remain in the city.

      The Miyakoji rapid trains cost 690 Yen one way. The Kintetsu Railways is faster, but it costs more (1,109 Yen). The kyuko express trains cost 610 Yen. The admission to mot of the temples is 500 Yen.

      Other Info

      There are also 53 areas designated as Important Cultural Properties. 26 edifices have been classified as National Treasures by the government.

      Visitors to the city can also drop by the Isuien Garden and Nara Park. The park is noted for its wild deer. The Yoshikien Garden is made up of three Japanese gardens each with their own distinct style. You will find antique houses at the Naramachi district.

      There are many tour providers that can arrange a visit to the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara. However, not all of them will include visits to the other parts of the city. Make sure you check the itinerary first.


      Christian Sites Selected for UNESCO List: An Overview of World Heritage Sites in Japan

      On June 30, 2018, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO announced the official registration of the Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region on its World Heritage list.

      The locations include Ōura Church in Nagasaki the remains of Hara Castle, where Christian farmers were besieged during the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637–38 and Sakitsu in Amakusa, a fishing village that was once a center for the faith. The UNESCO advisory body the International Council on Monuments and Sites commented that the sites bear testimony to the unique cultural tradition nurtured by Hidden Christians in the Nagasaki region who secretly practiced their faith despite a ban on Christianity.

      Japan now has 22 World Heritage sites, including its four World Natural Heritage sites.

      The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (“the World Heritage Convention”), adopted at the 1972 General Conference of UNESCO, called for a list to be created of natural and cultural sites of “outstanding universal value.”

      In December 1993, Japan’s first World Cultural Heritage sites were registered: the Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryūji Temple area (Nara Prefecture) and Himeji-jō Castle (Hyōgo). The seventeenth such site was registered in 2017, with the recognition of the Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region. The country’s first two World Natural Heritage sites were also recognized in December 1993: Yakushima (Kagoshima) and Shirakami-Sanchi (Aomori and Akita). These were followed by Shiretoko (Hokkaidō) and the Ogasawara Islands (Tokyo), bringing the total number of sites to four.

      As of June 2018, there are 1,073 World Heritage sites in the globe (832 World Cultural sites, 206 World Natural sites, and 35 mixed properties) a total of 193 countries have signed the “World Heritage Convention.”


      Types of World Heritage

      There are three types of world heritage, which target real, tangible properties.

      Cultural Heritage

      Monuments, Groups of Buildings, Sites, Cultural Landscapes and Other Properties of Outstanding Universal Value

      Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
      (Arab Republic of Egypt)

      Costiera Amalfitana (Italy)

      Natural Heritage

      Physiographical and Geological Formations, Ecosystems and Habitats of Threatened Animal on Plant Species and Other Properties of Outstanding Universal Value

      Shirakami-Sanchi (Japan)
      *Photo courtesy of Nishimeya Village Office

      Grand Canyon National Park (USA)

      Great Barrier Reef
      (Commonwealth of Australia)

      Mixed Heritage

      Properties of Both Cultural and Natural Heritage Value

      Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (Republic of Peru)

      Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
      (Republic of Turkey)

      Tongariro National Park (New Zealand)


      World Heritage世界遺産とは

      A “World Heritage” is a property that is registered on the “World Heritage List” which is created by the World Heritage Convention. There are three types of properties: structures and historic ruins are “Cultural Heritage Sites,” natural areas are “Natural Heritage Sites,” and properties that combine both elements of culture and nature are “Mixed Heritage Sites.”
      The“World Heritage Convention” is officially known as “The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.” In order to leave a legacy for the entire human race, the purpose of the convention is to establish a system of international cooperation and support in order to protect and preserve cultural and natural heritage from damage or destruction. It was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972 and went into effect in 1975. As of January 2017, 193 countries (State Parties) have joined the Convention. Japan joined the Convention in 1992.

      The Registration Process

      Each country (State Party) submits a “tentative list” of candidates that they would like to register as World Heritage to the World Heritage Committee.

      A Nomination File is submitted to the World Heritage Committee for candidates selected from the “tentative list” regarding their relevant heritage for the registration screening.

      The International Advisory Bodies (The International Council on Monuments and Sites and the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN)) conduct preliminary evaluations including field surveys of the sites.

      The World Heritage Committee evaluates the sites and decides which ones will be registered.


      Watch the video: Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto - UNESCO World Heritage Site


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