Home > Kyoto This Month >> Nara - Another Old Capital where Japan's heart is still alive

Discover more of Japan - Excursions from Kyoto
Nara - Another Old Capital where Japan's heart is still alive
Long before Kyoto started to flourish as Japan's national capital of Heian-kyo in 794, there was another place where, in fact, the foundation of Japan had already been established. That place is Nara, another ancient capital, which has so much to offer that have remained unchanged for over 1,300 years.

Meet the History and Treasures of Japan
The 69th Annual Exhibition of Shoso-in Treasures at Nara National Museum
(Oct. 28-Nov. 13)

Nara attracts many tourists throughout the year due to the abundance of historical and cultural assets from the Nara period (8th century) and its idyllic natural environment. The number of visitor peaks in November and these few weeks in autumn are particularly noteworthy due to the annual exhibition of Shoso-in treasures being held at the Nara National Museum. This exhibition offers an extraordinary opportunity for the public to survey the long and varied history of Japan through a number of priceless historical and cultural artifacts.

North Section 44: Screen Panel with a Wax-Resist (Rokechi) Design of a Ram Under a Tree Middle Section 131: Penknife with Aloeswood Hilt, Tortoiseshell Sheath, and Gilt-Silver Fittings

''Shoso'' means a large storage place for the central or regional government and temples. Hence, there were a number of ''Shoso'' all around Japan. However, when used today, ''Shoso-in'' specifically refers to this one in Nara which used to be a formal repository of Todaiji Temple. Japanese records claim that Nara was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, and Shoso-in holds many artifacts that came from as far away as the Eastern Roman Empire.

Shoso-in was formerly officially closed with the seal of the government representative and the imperial envoy making any opening or closing of the treasure house an extremely difficult task.

For this reason, its treasures have been able to survive in almost pristine condition to the present day even after over 1200 years.

Middle Section 151: Box with Design of Birds and Flowers Painted in Gold and Silver on a Turquoise Ground

The treasures of Shoso-in come mainly from the belongings of the Emperor Shomu and were donated about 1,200 years ago by the Empress Komyo to Todai-ji Temple in 756. Approximately 9,000 items have been collected. Of these, the great majority were items used for daily life, such as books, records, calligraphy tools, furniture, musical instruments, amusement items, costumes, medicines, weapons, food vessels, Buddhist altar fittings, objects used in annual observances and handicrafts.

These historical objects are of great artistic and scholarly value and represent the most precious national repository of ancient cultural treasures to be found in Japan. This year marks the 69th annual exhibition of Shoso-in treasures and fifty-eight artifacts will be on display.

Nara National Museum: Open: 9:00-18:00; Until 20:00 on Fri., Sat., Sun., and national holiday; Last admission is 30 minutes before closing; Ticket: 1,100 yen; www.narahaku.go.jp

Access to Nara from Kyoto

By JR Train, take the Miyakoji Kaisoku Express (approx. 45 min.)
To learn more about Nara, visit official English websites