Nara (city)

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Nara City
Nara motange.jpg
From top left: Wakakusayama Mountain Burning, Great Buddha of Tōdai-ji, Yakushi-ji, Tōdai-ji, Kasuga Shrine and a deer in Nara Park
Flag of Nara, Nara.svg
Emblem of Nara, Nara.svg
Nara (city)
Location of Nara in Nara Prefecture
Nara in Nara Prefecture Ja.svg
Japan location map with side map of the Ryukyu Islands.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Japan
Coordinates: 34°41′N135°48′E / 34.683°N 135.800°E / 34.683; 135.800 Coordinates: 34°41′N135°48′E / 34.683°N 135.800°E / 34.683; 135.800
Region Kansai
Prefecture Nara Prefecture
  Mayor Gen Nakagawa
  Total276.84 km2 (106.89 sq mi)
 (April 1, 2017)
  Density1,300/km2 (3,400/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+09:00 (JST)
City hall address1-1-1 Nijō-ōji, Nara-shi, Nara-ken
Bird Japanese bush warbler
FlowerNara yaezakura
Tree Quercus gilva
Nara (Chinese characters).svg
"Nara" in kanji
Japanese name
Kanji 奈良
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Official name Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara
Criteria Cultural: (ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)
Reference 870
Inscription1998 (22nd session)
Area617 ha (1,520 acres)
Buffer zone1,962.5 ha (4,849 acres)

Nara (奈良市, Nara-shi, Japanese:  [naꜜɾa] ) is the capital city of Nara Prefecture, Japan. As of 1 April 2019, Nara has an estimated population of 359,666, making it the largest city in Nara Prefecture and sixth-largest in the Kansai region of Honshu. Nara is a core city located in the northern part of Nara Prefecture bordering the Kyoto Prefecture.


Nara was the capital of Japan during the Nara period from 710 to 794 as the seat of the Emperor before the capital was moved to Kyoto. Nara is home to eight temples, shrines, and ruins, specifically Tōdai-ji, Saidai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, Kasuga Shrine, Gangō-ji, Yakushi-ji, Tōshōdai-ji, and the Heijō Palace, together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest, collectively form the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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 "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.



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]


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

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]

Modern Nara

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]


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.

Climate data for Nara (1991−2020 normals, extremes 1953−present)
Record high °C (°F)18.9
Average high °C (°F)9.0
Daily mean °C (°F)4.2
Average low °C (°F)0.1
Record low °C (°F)−7.0
Average precipitation mm (inches)52.4
Average snowfall cm (inches)1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.5 mm)
Average relative humidity (%)70696765687576737677767372
Mean monthly sunshine hours 115.2116.8156.4179.0189.5136.6158.8204.4152.8152.1135.1124.41,821.1
Source: Japan Meteorological Agency [28]


The Nara City.jpg
Nara city in Nara Basin viewed from Byakugō-ji


As of April 1,2017, the city has an estimated population of 359,666 and a population density of 1,300 persons per km2. There were 160,242 households residing in Nara. [29] The highest concentration of both households and population, respectively about 46,000 and 125,000, is found along the newer bedtown districts, along the Kintetsu line connecting to Osaka.

There were about 3,000 registered foreigners in the city, of which Koreans and Chinese are the two largest groups with about 1,200 and 800 people respectively.

Landmarks and culture

Toshodai-ji temple Toshodaiji Nara Nara pref01s5s4290.jpg
Tōshōdai-ji temple
Saidai-ji main hall Saidai-ji Nara Japan09n.jpg
Saidai-ji main hall

Buddhist temples

Shinto shrines

Kasuga Shrine Kasuga-taisha16ns3200.jpg
Kasuga Shrine

Former imperial palace


Nara National Museum 140927 Nara National Museum Nara Japan03bs5.jpg
Nara National Museum


Isuien Garden Isuien Nara02bs4592.jpg
Isuien Garden
Ukimidou Pavilion in Nara Park Fu Jian Tang .JPG
Ukimidou Pavilion in Nara Park
Sunazuri-no-Fuji (wisteria flower) in Kasuga-taisha Sunazuri-no-Fuji 20140503 03.jpg
Sunazuri-no-Fuji (wisteria flower) in Kasuga-taisha




Burning the dead grass of Mount Wakakusa and Suzakumon of Heijo Palace 090124 wakakusa yamayaki.jpg
Burning the dead grass of Mount Wakakusa and Suzakumon of Heijō Palace

Deer in Nara

Deer roaming in Nara city. 2010 Deer roaming in Nara city. 2010.jpg
Deer roaming in Nara city. 2010

According to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, the god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. [30] Since then, the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country. [30]

Tame sika deer (also known as spotted deer or Japanese deer) roam through the town, especially in Nara Park. [24] [27] [31] [32] [33] In 2015, there were more than 1,200 sika deer in Nara. [31] [32] [33] Snack vendors sell sika senbei (deer crackers) to visitors so they can feed the deer. [31] [32] [33] Some deer have learned to bow in order to receive senbei from people. [31] [32] [33]


As of 2005, there are 16 high schools and 6 universities located in the city of Nara.


Nara Women's University former main building Nara Women's University Nara Japan01s5.jpg
Nara Women's University former main building

Nara Women's University is one of only two national women's universities in Japan. Nara Institute of Science and Technology is a graduate research university specializing in biological, information, and materials sciences.

Primary and secondary education

Public schools

Public elementary and junior high schools are operated by the city of Nara.

Public high schools are operated by the Nara Prefecture.

Private schools

Private high schools in Nara include the Tōdaiji Gakuen, a private school founded by the temple in 1926.


Kintetsu Nara Station Jin Tie Nai Liang Yi  - panoramio - kurohune.jpg
Kintetsu Nara Station
JR Nara Station JR Nara Station.jpg
JR Nara Station
Kintetsu Limited Express passing through the Heijo Palace ruins. Mt.Wakakusa and Todaiji Temple are in the background. Kintetsu Series 30000 Nara.jpg
Kintetsu Limited Express passing through the Heijo Palace ruins. Mt.Wakakusa and Todaiji Temple are in the background.

The main central station of Nara is Kintetsu Nara Station with JR Nara station some 500m west and much closer to Shin-Omiya station.



Twin towns – sister cities


Nara's sister cities are: [34]


Nara is featured in the anime and manga, Tonikawa: Fly Me to the Moon.

Related Research Articles

Nara period Historical period of Japan, AD 710 to 794

The Nara period of the history of Japan covers the years from AD 710 to 794. Empress Genmei established the capital of Heijō-kyō. Except for a five-year period (740–745), when the capital was briefly moved again, it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until Emperor Kanmu established a new capital, Nagaoka-kyō, in 784, before moving to Heian-kyō, modern Kyoto, a decade later in 794.

Nara Prefecture Prefecture of Japan

Nara Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located in the Kansai region of Honshu. As of 2020, Nara Prefecture has a population of 1,321,805 and has a geographic area of 3,691 square kilometres (1,425 sq mi). Nara Prefecture borders Kyoto Prefecture to the north, Osaka Prefecture to the northwest, Wakayama Prefecture to the southwest, and Mie Prefecture to the east.


Rajōmon (羅城門), also called Rashōmon (羅生門), was the gate built at the southern end of the monumental Suzaku Avenue in the ancient Japanese cities of Heijō-kyō (Nara) and Heian-kyō (Kyoto), in accordance with the Chinese grid-patterned city layout. At the other far north-end of Suzaku Avenue, one would reach the Suzakumon Gate, the main entrance to the palace zone. As of 2007, the southern end of Suzaku Avenue and the possible remainder of the equivalent gate in Fujiwara-kyō (Kashihara) are yet to be discovered.

Hayato people

The Hayato (隼人), which is Japanese for "falcon-people", were a people of ancient Japan who lived in the Satsuma and Ōsumi regions of southern Kyushu during the Nara period. They frequently resisted Yamato rule. After their subjugation they became subjects of the government under Ritsuryō, and the Ministry of the Military had an office known as the Hayato-shi (隼人司) in charge of their governance. The name also came into use by samurai as a title, Hayato no suke (隼人助). In modern times, Hayato is a Japanese male given name.

Japanese place names include names for geographic features, present and former administrative divisions, transportation facilities such as railroad stations, and historic sites in Japan. The article Japanese addressing system contains related information on postal addresses.


Kofun are megalithic tombs or tumuli in Northeast Asia. Kofun were mainly constructed in the Japanese archipelago between the middle of the 3rd century to the early 7th century CE.

See also: 7th century in architecture, 9th century in architecture, and the timeline of architecture.

Kintetsu Nara Station Railway station in Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan

Kintetsu Nara Station is a railway station on the Nara Line in Nara, Japan, operated by the private railway operator Kintetsu Railway.

Nara Station Railway station in Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan

Nara Station is a railway station located in Nara, Japan. Operated by West Japan Railway Company, it is the main stop in the city of Nara on the Kansai Main Line, the terminus for the Sakurai Line, and Nara Line trains for Kyoto begin here and run on the Kansai Line to Kizu before diverging. Also, a limited number of Gakkentoshi Line trains terminate here via Kizu during early mornings and late nights.

Ishibutai Kofun

Ishibutai Kofun (石舞台古墳) is a stone kofun tumulus of the Asuka period in the east of Shimanoshō, Asuka, Nara Prefecture, Japan. The kofun is believed to be the tomb of Soga no Umako. It occupies a space of 54 m (177 ft), and is the largest known megalithic structure in Japan. The kofun is also known as the Ishibutoya (石太屋) Kofun.


Heijō-kyō, was the Capital of Japan during most of the Nara period, from 710–40 and again from 745–84. The imperial palace is a listed UNESCO World Heritage together with other places in the city of Nara.

Asuka, Yamato Imperial capital of Japan during the Asuka period (538-710); now in Nara Prefecture

Asuka (飛鳥) was the Imperial capital of Japan during the Asuka period, which takes its name from this place. It is located in the present-day village of Asuka, Nara Prefecture.

Kizugawa, Kyoto City in Kansai, Japan

Kizugawa is a city located in southern Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. It is the southernmost city in the prefecture and it is named after the Kizu River, a tributary of the Yodo River, which runs through the city. Kizugawa City is a part of the Kansai Science City project and houses research facilities of several corporations, including Rohto Pharmaceutical and Omron.


Rōben (良弁、朗弁、良辨、朗辨), also known as Ryōben, was a Japanese Buddhist monk of the Kegon sect, and clerical founder of the Tōdai-ji temple in Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan. He is popularly known as the "Golden Bell Practitioner". His life spanned the late Asuka period to the early Nara period, a period associated with the establishment of Buddhism in Japan.

Tenpyō Japanese era (August 729 – April 749)

Tenpyō (天平) was a Japanese era name after Jinki and before Tenpyō-kanpō. This period spanned the years from August 729 through April 749. The reigning emperor was Shōmu-tennō (聖武天皇).

Asuka-Fujiwara: Archaeological sites of Japan’s Ancient Capitals and Related Properties is a cluster of archaeological sites from in and around the late sixth- to early eighth-century capitals of Asuka and Fujiwara-kyō, Nara Prefecture, Japan. In 2007, twenty eight sites were submitted jointly for future inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List under the ii, iii, iv, v, and vi criteria. Currently, the submission is listed on the Tentative List.


Fukiishi were a means of covering burial chambers and burial mounds during the kofun period of Japan. Stones collected from riverbeds were affixed to the slopes of raised kofun and other burial chambers. They are considered to have descended from forms used in Yayoi-period tumuli. They are common in the early and mid-Kofun periods, but most late Kofun-period tumuli do not have them.

The Museum, Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture

The Museum, Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture first opened under another name in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, Japan, in 1940. The collection includes artefacts excavated from Fujinoki Kofun that have been designated a National Treasure. In addition to the permanent display, there are two special exhibitions each year, in spring and autumn.

Nara Basin

The Nara Basin, also known as the Yamato Basin, is a valley in the north-western part of Nara Prefecture, Japan. It has an area of roughly 300 square kilometres (120 sq mi). It is surrounded on four sides by mountains: the Yamato Plateau in the east, the Ikoma-Kongō range in the west, the Narayama Hills in the north, and the Ryūmon Mountains in the south.


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