Todai-ji was built in 745 and is the largest wooden building in the world. In the precinct of Todai-ji, there are many interesting sites such as Daibutsu-den, the hall that contains the big Buddha statue, and Nandai-mon, which is known to be the biggest temple gate in Japan. Burnt down twice since it was built, the present building was built in 1708. It is said that the size of the precinct now is only 60 percent of what it was originally. However, it is still a very large space and the buildings are huge. It is easily the most popular sightseeing spot in Nara.
The huge building located in the center of the temple precincts is Daibutsu-den, the biggest wooden building in the world. It was burnt down several times over the years, but it was rebuilt every time. The present building is the third one to have been built. This magnificent building is the first thing that comes into the view of visitors who enter the temple area.
In Daibutsu-den, there sits a 15-meter-tall Buddha statue “Todai-ji Rushanabutsu-zo” welcoming visitors. With a calm facial expression and a raised right hand, this statue is representative of Todai-ji. It is the first thing you should see in Todai-ji.
A Pillar with a Hole
You might find a pillar with a hole at its base in Daibutsu-den. In fact, the hole is made to be the same size as the Buddha Statue’s nostril. They say that those who can squeeze through this hole can stay healthy without suffering from illness. Don’t forget to give it a shot!
Nandai-mon is the biggest temple gate in Japan which stands at the entrance to greet visitors. As many as eighteen 21-meter-long pillars are used to build this gate and the pillars are carved out of 800-year-old trees. It is a suitable gate for Todai-ji, the biggest wooden building in the world.
Statues of Kongo Rikishi
When you walk through Nandai-mon, you will see a pair of wooden statues called Kongo Rikishi on both sides of you. The one on the right side is named A-gyo, the one on the left side is named Un-gyo. Both are surprisingly heavy and weigh 6.6 tons each. Considered to be guardians of Todai-ji, they protect the temple from evil.
When you walk eastward from Daibutsu-den, you will see Nigatsu-do standing on a hill. The Buddha Statues in Nigatsu-do are secret Buddhas and even the temple priests are not allowed to see them. Nigatsu-do offers a gorgeous view and is definitely worth visiting.
Sangatsu-do (Nikko & Gekko Bosatsu)
Sangatsu-do (aslo known as Hokke-do) stands on a stone pavement to the south of Nigatsu-do. It is actually the oldest building in Todai-ji. Tatami mats are laid inside so visitors can relax and fully appreciate the ten Buddha Statues including Nikko-Bosatsu and Gekko-Bosatsu.
Kaidan-do (Shitenno Statues)
Kaidan-do is located to the west of Daibutsu-den. This is a historical building where ceremonies marking the entrance to Buddhist priesthood are held. With four Shitenno Statues, each statue is said to guard one direction of east, west, north & south. Take a close look at them and you will see that each one of them has unique expressions and attire.
If you want to know more about Todai-ji, you should visit Todai-ji Museum. It is located near Nandai-mon and always has exhibitions of art works owned by Today-ji including some national treasures. You can’t miss this chance to see rare items.