Summary

About Nara Park

History

Nara was established over 1,300 years ago, following its relocation from the Asuka-Fujiwara Palace area in 710. The country was governed from Nara, nurturing the flamboyant Tenpyo culture, until the capital was transferred to Nagaoka in Yamashiro Province. During the Nara period the capital developed as a monzen-machi (temple city). Many religious sites were founded or reconstructed, including Todaiji Temple, Kohfukuji Temple – among others, known as the seven great Buddhist temples of Nara – and Shinto shrines, including Kasugataisha Shrine. Nara welcomes many visitors interested in exploring Japan’s history and rich cultural heritage.

Nara Park

Nara Park extends across an area of 660 hectares, and is regarded as an historic site of unparalleled natural beauty, with magnificent trees and lush greenery. It encompasses major temples and shrines, including Todaiji Temple, Kohfukuji Temple and Kasugataisha Shrine, as well as the cultural institutions of Nara National Museum and the Shosoin Repository.

Nara Park represents the heritage area of Nara city, an environment composed of temple halls, pagodas, abundant trees and verdant lawns, a combination of the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall), greenery and free-roaming deer.

Nara Park Data

Name Nara Prefectural Park, Nara Park
Established on February 14, 1880
Total Area 511.33ha (Plains area: 48.77ha. Mountain and forest area: 462.56ha) Revised in April, 2017.
Visitors Over 13 million annually.
Wildlife include deer (approximately 1,200 in number), raccoon dogs, wild boars, tree squirrels, flying squirrels and a variety of other species.
Plants include pine trees, cherry trees, maple trees, tallow trees, Japanese Andromeda, Japanese cedars, crape myrtles, Japanese apricots, camphor trees, white cedars, etc.
87 species (approximately 10,000) of trees within the plains area
207 species (innumerable) of trees within the mountain forest areas

The charm of Nara Park

Nara Park’s beautiful scenery has enchanted visitors throughout its long history.

Ancient Times

As referred to in poetry of the Manyoshu (the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry), which mentions Kasugano Park and Mt. Kasuga, Nara Park was regarded as the finest place for walking and recreation by courtiers of the ancient capital. There are a total of 86 poems in the Manyoshu that reference locations related to Nara Park.

  • Number of poems referencing locations in the park (Kasugano Park, Asajigahara Park, etc.): 29
  • Number of poems referencing mountains in the Park (Mt. Kasuga, Mt. Mikasa, etc.): 40
  • Number of poems referencing rivers in the Park (Isagawa River, Notogawa River, etc.): 17

Edo Period

Likened to the “Shosho hakkei” (The Eight Views of Xiaoxiang), traditional Chinese paintings and poetry of the Song Dynasty. “Eight Views” were also selected in various regions of Japan.

The “Nanto Hakkei” (The Eight Views of Nara) was first created in 1465, and is considered to be the first of the “Eight Views” series in Japan. They were included in publications of the Edo period, namely the “Yamato Meisho Zue” (A Guide to the Notable Sites of Nara) and the “Shinsen Yamato Meisho Orai” (New Routes and Sights of Nara), as follows:
Note: The Nara region was formerly known as Yamato.

  • Bell at Todaiji Temple
  • Deer in Kasugano Park
  • Wisteria at Nanendo Hall
  • Moon over Sarusawaike Pond
  • Fireflies over Sahogawa River
  • Rain falling on Kumoiazaka Hill
  • Travelers on Todoroki Bridge
  • Snow on Mt. Wakakusa

Modern Age

In the Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras, many authors and artists visited or lived in Nara, and wrote about the characteristics of the scenery in Nara Park.

“Without doubt, Nara is a lovely place. The scenery is delightful, and the historic architecture is refined and harmonious. There is no other place with such scenic character. The Nara of today is just part of an ancient city, though what remains of the classical scenery is extraordinarily beautiful.

“Nara” by Shiga Naoya, 1938

“Nara Park is the most beautiful park in Japan….it has a natural magnificence, meaning that it has not been distorted by the small-garden taste often seen in other parts of Japan. There are no artificial mountains or rocks placed for decorative purposes, which is pleasing. Needless to say, such artifice is not necessary, because the landscape has slopes and mountain peaks as a backdrop, which enhances the elegance of the foreground.”

“Unlike other beautiful parks, the tree growth is not so dense, and on the mountain slopes are magnificent primeval forests that have not been felled by any axe. The forest consists of cedars, pine trees, camphor trees, evergreen oaks, maples and zelkova.”

“Wherever you look inside this impressive park, mysterious nature welcomes you: across the park, picturesque scenery is fantastically presented in the ancient temples and pagodas of red and white, as well as the animals that reside there….nowhere represents the idyllic scenery of peace than this park.”

– Excerpt from the entry for ‘April 17, 1904’ from “The Diary of a German Doctor in Awakening Japan”, written by Erwin von Bälz, edited by Toku Bälz.